We already know that the Blue Jays will have to work on defence with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but he has another surprising weakness in his game.
The 2019 season was relatively successful for a 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr., even if he didn’t tear the league apart during his rookie year like so many thought he might. However, there was nothing wrong with his .272/.339/.433 slash line over 464 at-bats, and there are plenty of reasons to think he’s got a big year ahead of him as a sophomore.
In order to take that big stride from MLB regularly into a potential All-Star, Vlad Jr. has a few areas of his game to work on. Not surprisingly, his defence was among the worst in the big leagues in 2019, and he’ll need to improve at the hot corner if he wants to stay there long-term. He’ll also need to get a little more lift on his swing, which is something my colleague Clayton Richer talked about a couple of days ago as well.
In addition to working on those things, Vlad Jr. has one surprising area of weakness that I didn’t see coming. Oddly enough, he hit much better against same-side pitching last year, and actually struggled a bit against southpaws. For a powerful right-handed bat like his, that’s not the way things typically go.
Let’s have a look at the breakdown:
Vs. RHP (334 at-bats)
11 HR, 21 doubles, 54 RBI
Vs. LHP (130 at-bats)
4 HR, 5 doubles, 15 RBI
That represents quite a difference, and again, one that’s a bit unusual. That said, Vlad Jr. isn’t the only Blue Jay hitter who had reverse splits last year, as both Rowdy Tellez and Derek Fisher hit better against southpaws, despite being left-handed hitters.
In young Vlad’s defence, there are quite a few dominant left-handers in the American League these days, especially in the East Division. Veteran southpaws like J.A. Happ got the best of him (1-10), Chris Sale (1-7), David Price (0-3), Mike Minor (0-3), and I’m sure he’ll be chomping at the bit for another opportunity in 2020. Oddly enough, his best performance against a lefty was against Clayton Kershaw (granted in one game), going 1-1 and picking up two walks.
I wouldn’t say that this is a real problem just yet, especially because the sample size is so small at just 130 at-bats. That said, it would be nice to see Vlad Jr. start punishing southpaws the way that a right-handed bat of his stature should, and hopefully he’ll make some adjustments and improvements to this area during the upcoming season. If he can bring his hitting against lefties up, even to the same level he performed against righties last year, he’ll become an even more dangerous hitter.