Blue Jays: Why Vladimir Guerrero Jr. can and needs to stick at third base

TORONTO, ON - MAY 11: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays makes a defensive play and throws out the baserunner in the first inning during MLB game action against the Chicago White Sox at Rogers Centre on May 11, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 11: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays makes a defensive play and throws out the baserunner in the first inning during MLB game action against the Chicago White Sox at Rogers Centre on May 11, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Some folks want to write off Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as a big league third baseman before he’s gotten a real chance. That’s very short-sighted thinking if you ask me.

The Blue Jays have played one quarter of their season at the 40 game mark, and so far that’s included Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for 13 starts.

He didn’t debut until April 26th, mostly because of a strain to his left oblique during spring training (which ws convenient for his service time). His performance has been a mixed bag thus far as he’s adjusted to the big leagues, but he seems to be picking up some steam over the last few games, showing flashes of the talent that made him the near-universal #1 prospect in the game heading into this season. Over his last two games, he’s gone 3-6 with two walks, so he’s starting to look more comfortable at the plate.

The question was never whether or not Guerrero Jr. could hit, but rather how his glove would play at the highest level, especially at just 20 years old. Questions about his durability and his agility started before his first at-bat with the Blue Jays, and yet so far it’s been very interesting watching him out at the hot corner.

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He has committed two errors, but overall he’s left me with the impression that he’s not only capable of handling the position, but that he could even be an asset there with a little more experience and development. We’ve heard Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler talk about how he’s been working with Luis Rivera on a regular basis, which is an encouraging sign that the young man is serious about improving on both sides of the ball.

That footwork and agility will be the most important thing he’ll need to work on, but after watching him make several routine plays, and a few very difficult ones, I’m confident he has the tools he needs to be successful.

He’s shown a very strong arm throwing across the diamond, so much so that I really see it as a weapon for the Canadian-born infielder. His Hall of Fame father was notorious for his throwing arm in right field during his playing career, so it should be no surprise that Guerrero Jr. has a bit of a cannon of his own.

I’ve also been impressed with how soft his hands have been, even when the ball has been hit at him with authority. Again, he may need to work a bit on his side to side movement in order to thrive at the position, but he hasn’t had any issues scooping up the ones he’s been able to get to. That’s an important skill for any infielder, but it might be even more important at third where the ball is regularly hit with the authority, and where time is often of the essence.

I’ll eat my hat if his numbers stay the same by the end of the year, but right now Fangraphs has Guerrero Jr. with a -4.0 rating on offence, and a pleasantly surprising +0.5 with the glove. If he can maintain and continue to improve on defence he’ll not only be a greater asset to the team right now, but also down the line. When a glut of infielders that includes (but not limited to) Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Kevin Smith, Jordan Groshans, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Santiago Espinal, Logan Warmoth, and more in their minor league system, the Jays can likely afford to move him to first base down the line, but it would be even better if they didn’t have to.

Being able to keep first base open for Rowdy Tellez, or other potential free agents down the road will lengthen the lineup, and give Ross Atkins and the front office more solid trade pieces to work with. Being able to keep the designated hitter spot open for another slugger, or as a rotating spot to keep the other bats in the lineup rested, will do the same thing.

dark. Next. Buzzer-beater bigger than the bat-flip?

There are too many benefits to having Guerrero Jr. at third base for the long term to not see it through, and so far the kid looks like he can handle it. Maybe his body eventually grows out of the position (he really is a massive human being), but for now I really believe he’s a third baseman, and hopefully it’ll stay that way for a long time.

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