While it’s a matter of time before Vladimir Guerrero Jr, breaks out of his slump and starts hitting, his struggles are a great reminder that baseball is a tough game.
We discussed the eventual call-up of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for well over a year, and I don’t think any of us dreamed that his first 10 games would go this way.
Guerrero Jr. entered the season as the number one prospect in the game, and someone who was nearly universally considered to be not only ready for the big leagues, but a young hitter who could and should flourish right away. As the first prospect ever awarded an 80/80 hit tool by MLB pipeline, and a player who assaulted minor league pitching at every stop, it wasn’t hard to picture.
And yet, the young phenom has mostly struggled in his first 10 games. He’s shown flashes of what’s made him the most talked about Blue Jay prospect in franchise history, but he’s yet to hit his first home run, and right now he’s even sitting below the Mendoza line, slashing just .162/.244/.189 over 37 at-bats. I don’t believe it’s time to panic by any means, but there’s denying that things haven’t gone according to plan.
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It’s been pretty interesting to see some of the hard luck that he’s gone through so far, as big league pitchers have been extremely tough on him. He’s seen next to no pitches over the heart of plate since his promotion, and he’s had his fair share of tough strikes go against him. He was able to dominate throughout his minor league career, even in those circumstances, but it’s proven to be a little more difficult at the highest level.
As I’ve already mentioned, I have nothing but faith that Guerrero Jr. will start hitting and contributing as an impact player any day now. He’s too talented for this slump to last forever, and feels like the rare prospect who would have nothing to gain by being sent back to Buffalo at this point. However things are handled going forward, we can learn an important lesson from his first 10 games: hitting in the big leagues is very difficult, even for an elite prospect like Vlad Jr.
That’s important as the Blue Jays consider the future of the rest of their developing talent in the minor league system. There have been plenty of calls for Cavan Biggio to be promoted to Toronto by now, and plenty of folks who think that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. should probably come back to the big leagues (myself included). The two of them have been receiving reps in the outfield in Buffalo, and it’s possible their promotions could happen sooner than later. However, fans need to remember that just because they’re dominating in Triple-A doesn’t mean they’ll do the same with the Blue Jays, especially not right away. Gurriel Jr. has big league experience, but the same can’t be said for the 24-year-old Biggio.
We’ve watched young players like Guerrero Jr., Danny Jansen, Billy McKinney, and to a lesser extent, Teoscar Hernandez, all have a tough time on offence this season as they adjust to the challenge of hitting against the best pitchers in the world. That doesn’t mean that any or all of them won’t have good MLB careers, but it’s a good reminder that it doesn’t happen overnight for everyone, and sometimes not even the best of prospects.
While I very much believe in the future of this franchise and the talent of these young players, the first two weeks of Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s career is a reminder to me, and hopefully to you, that this rebuild isn’t going to happen overnight. These kids will require some patience from the organization and from the fans, and as much as we want the rebuild to speed up, sometimes patience is a virtue. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to see the likes of Biggio, Gurriel Jr., and eventually, Bo Bichette when he’s healthy, but to expect the team to vault into playoff contention after they arrive is probably unrealistic.
It’s only been 10 games, but if there’s anything we can learn from Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s introduction to the big leagues it’s that baseball is hard. That may sound pretty simple, but right now it about sums things up for the talented rookie, and the rest of the Blue Jays’ lineup for that matter. MLB’s 162 game schedule also means that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, and that’s definitely a good thing for a young and developing team.