Dante Bichette appeared on Sportnet 590 the Fan on Tuesday, and bluntly explained the key to Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s success in 2021 and beyond.
I’ve been impressed with the role that Dante Bichette has carved out with the Blue Jays’ coaching staff this year, and even more so with the impact he seems to have on the young roster. And after listening to his latest appearance on Sportsnet 590 the Fan, I’m an even bigger fan than I was before.
There are a lot of things to like about what the former big leaguer had to say about the talented young Blue Jays’ roster. From the way he speaks, it’s clear that he believes in these young men, and even more importantly, that he cares about them. Having said that, he was pretty straight to the point when asked about Vladimir Guerrero Jr‘s season and what the future holds for the 21-year-old.
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Bichette started out by explaining that Vlad Jr. is aware of the expectations he set himself up for with his superstar ascension through the minor league, and that, “he knows that he’s not playing like a lot of people expected him to”. The hitting instructor was quick to point out that Guerrero Jr. also handles things well in terms of those expectations, and it’s clear that Bichette is a fan of his hitting pupil.
However, what I truly appreciate about Bichette’s comments is that he called a spade a spade without doing so in a derogatory or defamatory way. Quite simply, it sounds like Vlad Jr. may have learned a valuable lesson about his conditioning as a sophomore, which is something we’ve talked about here at Jays Journal before. For whatever reason though, Bichette’s explanation feels like a fair assessment, and one that offers plenty of hope for next season and beyond.
"“You can’t really question (that), he had a weight problem, and if you saw late in the season, he dropped down pretty good. He was trying to lose weight the whole season, and did. And at the end of the season man, he really started to move around, run the bases better, play first better, and all of a sudden the bat speed came back.”"
The last part of that statement in particular is what stands out to me, that his “bat speed came back” when his conditioning improved. That’s an extremely important part of finding success at the highest level, and understanding your body is crucial. That’s all part of the learning curve of being a young big leaguer, and Bichette offered some more valuable insight to that end as well when it comes to Guerrero Jr.
"“We’re still talking about a 21-year-old kid who doesn’t even know what he’s putting in his body. He doesn’t know what it means yet, you know, so he’s gotta catch up there, he’s gotta mature. He’s gotta realize how important it is, and it’s gotta be that desire to do it. I think he saw at the end of the year the difference than when he was at the beginning of the year. So hopefully we get the real Vladdy coming up here pretty soon, and it’s there, you saw it in spurts. Inconsistency is a sign of being 21 years old and young. But still, if he’ll get himself in shape, it’s there, and it can come quick”."
Again, Bichette found a way to say what needed to be said, but also offered some understanding for the talented youngster. In reality, most 21 year olds are still figuring things out in the lower levels of the minor leagues, and there are baseball and life lessons that Vlad Jr. is going to learn on the fly. The significance of optimal conditioning is a lesson that he’s learning, and for a guy who dominated his competition throughout his life, it’s understandable that he’s slower to learn this lesson.
Thankfully the former top prospect in baseball has plenty of good mentors around him, and something tells me that Bichette is exactly the type of influence that can bring out the best in him.