Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. quizzing the all-time DH greats
It’s not that common to have such a young player DH-ing, but the Blue Jays have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. asking some of the all-time greats for tips.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was back in the lineup for the Blue Jays’ second game of the season after having made his first start at first base on Friday. With Santiago Espinal getting his first start at third base and Travis Shaw shifting over to first, Guerrero Jr. was in the DH spot on Saturday.
It’s not all that common to have a 21-year-old taking semi-regular at-bats as a designated hitter, but it sounds like the Blue Jays are committed to doing just that with their young slugger. He’ll certainly see regular time at first base as he gets more comfortable with a new position, but the Blue Jays have made it clear that they want him to focus on what he does best, and that’s hitting the cover off of the baseball.
That said, being a designated hitter is a different challenge than playing a regular position, especially for a young player. Instead of staying active throughout the game on defence, you’re tasked with getting yourself into a game-read headspace for 10-15 minutes a game. You’ll hear a lot of stories about DH’s riding a stationary bike in the tunnel before at-bats to get the blooding flowing, or whatever happens to work for the individual.
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Looking at the small sample size from Vlad Jr’s rookie season in 2019, he wasn’t all that successful as a DH. He slashed just .219/.286/.323 with with two home runs, four doubles, and 10 RBI across 96 at-bats. When you contract that to the .288/.354/.467 he posted while playing third base, it’s something to be aware of, and to work on. And who better to turn to than some of the all-time greats?
According to Dan Shulman on Saturday’s broadcast, it sounds like Vlad Jr. has reached out to some of the best designated hitters in history for some tips about performing at the position. Shulman mentioned Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez, and two more than will likely join him when they become eligible some day in David Ortiz and the still-active Nelson Cruz. That’s an impressive list of hitters, and there’s no doubt that they had a few useful ideas for the youngster to apply to his bag of tricks.
We’ll see how he adjusts to both the new position and getting more regular time at designated hitter, but ultimately I believe that if Vlad Jr. is more focused on hitting, that will only benefit the Blue Jays in time.