A slow start to his MLB career hasn’t stopped Vlad Guerrero Jr. from going on a tear lately, including a recent power surge. Although he missed the early portion of the 2019 season, how many home runs will Vlad Jr. hit as a rookie this year?
Remember a few weeks ago when some (most) of us were a little worried about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. That sure seems like a distant memory after the way he’s swung the bat over the last nine games.
Over that period he’s 10-27 including five walks, which is a pretty incredible stretch for any big leaguer let alone a 20-year-old rookie. He’s looked like a completely different hitter from the first couple of weeks we watched him at the highest level, and it’s clear that his confidence is growing every day, especially at the plate.
What I find particularly intriguing is the fact that he’s also hit four home runs during this hot stretch, and the way he’s swinging the bat right now it looks like he’s just getting started. He’s always been a well-rounded hitter, and I don’t expect that to change at the highest level, but it’s got me wondering just how serious of a power threat he’s going to be in his first year.
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A lot can change for Guerrero, so taking a deep dive into the statistics of his first 20 games may be a bit of a stretch, but there are a few things we can learn. First, and simply put, the young phenom is already hitting the ball harder than the average big leaguer, even before he’s started to make consistent contact by fully squaring up the ball. His exit velocity is at 91.6 MPH as opposed to the league average of 87.4, and his barrel percentage is only at 10.9% according to Statcast. I’d bet a great deal that those figures will grow as the season goes on.
Another figure that will rise is his launch angle, which currently sits at just 5.1 degrees as opposed to the league average of 11.0. This number has been rising around the league as hitters seek to add power to their arsenal, but that’s not something Vlad Jr. has to worry too much about, as he has plenty of natural power. That said, when he starts making more consistent contact, I’m willing to bet we see that launch angle go up closer to league average. As a well-rounded hitter, I don’t know that he’ll surpass it, but that’s not a bad thing either.
If there’s anything I can glean from all of that, it’s that I believe Guerrero will hit for more power as the season goes on, at least compared to the entire sample size since his debut. So far he’s slugged four home runs in his first 20 games and 73 at-bats, and assuming he’s healthy all year and doesn’t end up demoted back to Triple-A at any point (hey, it even happened to Roy Halladay so you never know), we might have just enough data to make a prediction of where he could end up.
Using the simplest mathematical formula I can think of, let’s have a look at what we’re dealing with for the remainder of the year.
- He’s played in 20 of 23 games so far (roughly 87%), and we can probably expect a similar rest schedule. The Blue Jays are currently 20-28 right now, meaning they have 112 games left. If Vlad Jr. stays on that pace, he’ll play in 97 more games.
- Right now he’s hit a home run on a pace of one in every five games. In the simplest of terms possible, that would give him another 19 to add to the four he’s already hit, giving him a total of 23.
- However, he’s already moved up to 2nd in the batting order, which should give him a few extra at-bats to affect his pace, and will give him better protection with guys like Justin Smoak following behind. He also didn’t hit a home run during the cold stretch in his first 13 games, and has gone deep all four times in his last seven games.
- On the other hand, opposing pitchers will learn more about him as time goes on, adjust to him as they get more footage to study, and ultimately, they’ll be more and more careful with him.
Consider all of the above, the 23 home run pace he’s currently on, the improvement we’ve seen from him lately, and the bump I expect to see in some of his numbers, there’s a lot of potential here. In fact, I’m going to predict that he finishes the season with 28 home runs, just shy of 30 as a rookie, and a mark he probably would have hit with a full season. Then again, it wouldn’t shock me if he far exceeds that educated guess either.
There’s no doubt that there are a ton of variables at play here, so making a prediction like this is for nothing more than fun at this point as far as I’m concerned. What I do know is that the kid has me thinking about his potential and dreaming about the future of the Blue Jays with him as the centrepiece of the offence.