A lot was made of Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s conditioning during his rookie season, and it looks like he’s worked hard over the winter to prepare for 2020.
There were several Blue Jays who started showing up and reporting early to Spring Training this week, and one of them was 20-year-old slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Several photos of the budding superstar popped up on social media on Monday, and it added to the excitement for the Blue Jays season ahead. After adding four new starting pitchers and several other assets over the off-season, this young team could be relevant as soon as this year, and if they are it will likely be because of a big step forward for Guerrero Jr. and his young teammates.
The Canadian-born, Dominican-raised phenom wasn’t quite as good as some thought he might be in 2019, but doesn’t mean he didn’t impress. He finished the season slashing .272/.336/.433 with 15 home runs and 26 doubles over 123 games, and flashed the kind of potential that should lead to a career full of All-Star appearances.
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That said, not everything was sunshine and roses for Guerrero Jr. as he adjusted to playing at the highest level, and one of the biggest lessons he took away was the need for a great commitment to conditioning. He admitted to coaches that he was tiring late in the season, adjusting to the demands of MLB life, and a 162 game regular season schedule, and his .232/.264/.293 slash line in September supports the idea. If he wants to reach his full potential at the highest level, he’ll need to get in better shape.
That’s not to pick on him by any means, in fact, I was pretty impressed by the photos that were circulating on Monday. One in particular that was posted by Sportsnet’s Ben Wagner showed young Guerrero Jr. in a t-shirt and shorts at the complex in Dunedin. Unfortunately there were a few wise guys on social media who immediately offered negative comments about his perceived fitness level, however, he looks like he’s put in a fair bit of work throughout the winter if you ask me.
What some people fail to understand is that Vlad Jr. is never going to be a slender man, regardless of how lofty his fitness goals might be. There are also some folks who are just looking for a reason to talk about his weight, and want to pick on one particular snapshot. To me, he looks like he’s slimmed down over the winter in this picture, but if you aren’t buying that, have a look at this photo, posted by Twitter user @summermayberry:
Again, Vlad Jr. is never going to be a small man, but it looks pretty clear to me that he’s taken his off-season preparation seriously after a season that provided a lot of valuable lessons. We also have to remember that this is a young man who has dominated at every level he’s ever played at throughout his life. The fact that he was proven to be mortal in the big leagues last year showed him that if he wants to be elite against the best in the world, raw talent won’t be quite enough anymore.
Thankfully it looks like Guerrero Jr. took that lesson to heart over the winter, and he’s given us yet another reason to be excited about the season ahead for the Blue Jays. He’ll still only be 21 years old next month, and he’ll certainly have more learning to do, but expect a big year and a lot of improvement from the young phenom.