Friday brought the debut of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with the Toronto Blue Jays, and he’s already doing and saying the right things to be an impact big leaguer.
In what was the most anticipated debut of a prospect that I can recall in my lifetime, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showed that he belonged at the big league level in his first game.
He ended up going 1-4 in his debut and was responsible for the winning run in the bottom of the 9th after Brandon Drury homered to walk off the A’s. After doubling to right field the Blue Jays sent out a pinch runner for Guerrero Jr., but he was responsible for getting the game-winning rally started.
A player of Guerrero Jr’s talent and hype is going to have everything he does scrutinized to the nth degree, but Friday’s game brought some excellent signs for the #1 prospect in baseball. Not only did he collect his first hit, but he also hit the ball very hard each time he came to the plate, and handled the electric atmosphere with a kind of grace we don’t normally see from 20-year-olds. As if there wasn’t pressure on him to perform, but add in a stadium full of excited fans standing throughout your at-bats in your first game, and that’s a lot to process.
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The encouragement was plentiful though, as he looked very comfortable in the batter’s box, and didn’t try to do too much, even though it would have been very easy for him to get caught up in the moment.
His first at-bat was a hard hit groundball to the right side of the infield, which just so happened to be the third-hardest hit ball to the opposite field this season by any Blue Jay (hat tip to @bluejaysbeat for that factoid).
His second at-bat could have been his first hit if not for a great catch by Chad Pinder in left field, and he followed it up during his third plate appearance with a long drive to right-centre, which was unfortunately caught as well.
When Guerrero led off in the ninth inning, he got himself down to two strikes and then showed off the talent and poise that made him the first prospect ever rated as an 80/80 according to Fangraphs. Instead of trying to do too much and win the game with one swing, Vlad Jr. shortened his cut and picked up a double on another ball hit to the opposite field. It’s the kind of maturity that takes time to develop, and it’s a great sign to see that sort of thing in his very first game.
If there was one thing that impressed me the most though, it would have to be his answer to Hazel Mae’s question, “what will you remember from this game?”.
The young phenom already understands that individual accolades are great, but nothing is more important than a team win. He was also the first one out of the dugout after Drury’s home run, soaking in the moment of his first team win in the big leagues, and celebrating with his new teammates.
The excitement will continue to follow Guerrero as he gets deeper into his rookie season, but so far it’s great to see that he’s already doing a lot of the little, and the big things correctly.