Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hasn’t been quite as good as the hype he came into the league with, but he already leads baseball in one encouraging category as a 20 year old.
If you’ve been paying attention to the Blue Jays at all lately, then you’re probably pretty consumed with the historical way that Bo Bichette has introduced himself to Major League Baseball. That would be more than understandable when you consider that he now owns the record for most consecutive games with a double (which, coincidentally are in his first two weeks as a big leaguer), and it seems like’s breaking a new record every day right now.
Bichette has been stealing the spotlight from his teammates lately, but he’s not the only one who has been performing well. Despite Bichette’s ridiculous introduction to the league, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was named the AL Player of the Week last week, and it was certainly a deserved honour. Vlad Jr. has been very impressive at the plate lately, even if some of the attention has finally shifted away from him.
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I’ve already seen some people on social media start saying things like “Bichette is going to end up as twice the player as Vlad Jr.”, or “Bichette is going to steal Vlad Jr’s future MVP awards”, and who knows, maybe they’re right. Bichette could end up being a future MVP candidate, and as a Blue Jay fan I really hope that’s the case. But don’t think for a second that he’s suddenly guaranteed to become a better player that Vlad Jr. just because of a two-week hot streak, or that it somehow means that the latter won’t be a star as well.
Part of the reason for comments like that is because Vlad Jr. hasn’t been quite the sensation that some people thought he would be. That doesn’t mean that he’s been a failure at all though, and when you consider that he’s still just 20 years old, you have to tip your hat that he’s already showing signs of being an elite hitter. In fact, the stats would back me up on that statement.
During last night’s radio broadcast (I was on the road during the game), Sportnet’s Mike Wilner mentioned that Vlad Jr. leads the league in one important statistic. With his double last night that reached a remarkable 118.5 miles per hour, Guerrero Jr. now has seven balls hit that have reached 115 mph or better (courtesy of Statcast). The closest challenger has four, which means Vlad Jr. has almost lapped the field when it comes to hitting the ball the hardest. That’s not a small thing.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain that hitting the ball hard usually means good things will happen, and that’s usually been the case when the young phenom has “gotten ahold of one” this season. When you consider that he’s just 20 years old and is still learning and adjusting to the league, it’s downright ridiculous that he leads such a significant category. I’m going to assume that his body hasn’t even fully matured, and he’s pacing the league in balls hit at that level. Giancarlo Stanton is the only player to hit any better harder than the kid all season long.
I understand that seven hard-hit balls don’t make a season, and neither do his heroics in the home run derby against batting practice pitching. However, the important thing is that the signs of a future superstar are on paper in addition to being there for those of us with the benefit of the eye test. His .273/.344/.457 slash line with 13 home runs and 20 doubles in 322 at-bats might feel a little underwhelming to some folks, but it really shouldn’t be that way. For anyone else, those numbers would be reason for even more hype, and for some reason that isn’t universally the case.
Sure, Bichette’s magical introduction to the league has been on another level, and guys like Fernando Tatis Jr. and even Brandon Lowe have overshadowed what Vlad Jr. has accomplished this year. But if you look at the whole picture, and a significant category like exit velocity, there are more than enough reasons to keep dreaming of All-Star games and MVP races for Vlad Jr. He’s already showing that nobody hits the ball harder than he can as a 20-year-old rookie.