Despite the fact that the Blue Jays have a hole to fill at third base, there’s an argument that there’s no room for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the position.
Ever since about mid-summer, we’ve seen a different dedication to fitness and nutrition from the former #1 prospect in baseball, and the results are pretty staggering. Since late-July, it’s been reported that Vlad Jr. has now lost upwards of 40 pounds, and according to a tweet from MLB Insider Hector Gomez out of the Dominican, he still has 10 more pounds to reach his goal.
The tweet mentions that Guerrero Jr’s goal is to reach 235, so by doing the math, that means that he started around 285 pounds. If that’s true, then it’s not terribly surprising that the young slugger struggled last season, and it’s encouraging to see his new dedication to fitness. That said, apparently part of his motivation is because he wants to return to third base, and I hope he won’t be discouraged next spring. I say that because I don’t think a return to the hot corner is in the cards young Vladdy.
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I do believe that there are substantial benefits to Vlad Jr. being capable and trusted at third base, and I hope that’s an option on the table for Charlie Montoyo next season. However, there are multiple reasons why I think a move back to third for the 21-year-old on a full-time basis isn’t really an option for the Blue Jays. Things can change of course, but allow me to explain why I say that at the moment, regardless of what kind of shape Vlad Jr. gets himself into before next season.
1- One the biggest needs is improved defence
One of the identified needs that the Blue Jays are looking to address this winter is an improvement on defence. For as exciting as the kids are to watch swing the bat, there is a lot of work that needs to be done on the glove side of the game. It’s why a free agent option like Andrelton Simmons has even been discussed as an option in the rumour mill, and it’s a real need for the team.
I have no doubt that a more fit Vlad Guerrero Jr. would be an improved defender, but how much growth can we actually expect, even in a best case scenario? When we last saw him at the hot corner on a regular basis in 2019, he rated as the worst defensive player in baseball. That’s not an exaggeration, and it’s part of why he was moved to first base last season.
Moving him back to third would give them a chance to lengthen the lineup on offence, but would it improve the infield defence? It’s pretty hard to envision that happening, even if he shows up to camp in the best shape of his life.
2- Top prospects on the way, fitting everybody in could be a challenge
As far as the Blue Jays’ farm system, things could change in a hurry if Ross Atkins swings a big trade this offseason. However, right now the Blue Jays have some exciting prospects on both sides of the ball, and in particular, a ton of talent coming to the infield.
At the top of the list are a pair of Top-100 prospects that could ultimately end up at third base in Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans. The former was drafted as a shortstop, but has also spent time at third base, second base, and in the outfield, and it’s hard to say where he’ll end up once he reaches the big leagues. The latter was also drafted as a shortstop, but many predict he’ll end up as a third baseman once he reaches the highest level. There are also younger options that are a few years away like Orelvis Martinez and Miguel Hiraldo, so the Blue Jays aren’t short on players to dream on for the future.
I don’t expect that any of those four will make the MLB roster in 2021, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Martin and Groshans ready for the big leagues a year from now, and who knows, I wouldn’t be shocked if Martin debuted next season.
3- The Blue Jays have money to spend, and not many holes on offence
It seems like the Blue Jays have designs on making an impact addition or two this winter, and they’re not limiting their sites to the pitching staff. There have been plenty of rumours linking them to Francisco Lindor, and also free agent options to DJ LeMahieu, and those type stars would impact the infield depth charts.
There are no guarantees that the Blue Jays are going to upgrade the roster in this way, but if they do, there’s pretty much zero path back to third base for Vlad Jr.
That being said, I stand by the earlier point that it would be great if Guerrero Jr. playing third was an occasional option for Charlie Montoyo. I suspect that he’ll still spend the majority of his time at first, but being in better shape will help him there too, and most importantly, should jump-start his offensive production. Above all else, that’s the most important thing.
So while it’s wonderful to see Guerrero Jr. working to get in great shape and seemingly achieving his goals, I don’t think it’ll lead to a move back to his old position.