Vladimir Guerrero Jr

Blue Jays: The upside to Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s early career struggles

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 17, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 10-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 17, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 10-7. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s MLB career hasn’t started the way that the Blue Jays had hoped, but there is an upside to his struggle to meet expectations.

For still being just 21 years old, a lot has happened in the pro career of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Once the top-rated prospect in baseball, the young phenom has taken a while to adjust to the rigours of big league baseball, and has already been taught some valuable lessons.

And as frustrating as it’s been to watch him fail to reach his potential over his first two MLB seasons, it may be the best thing that happens for his career in the long-term.

The son of a Hall of Famer had never known anything other than dominating on a baseball field, and that was the case right up until he reached the highest level. He was a man among boys throughout the minor leagues, despite the fact that he was usually the youngest player on the diamond. When he was promoted, he finished his MiLB career with a slash line of .331/.414/.531 with 44 home runs, 79 doubles, and 209 RBI over 289 games. Keep in mind, that’s covering his age 17-19 seasons across Rookie-AAA ball.

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As Vlad Jr. has found out over the last couple of seasons, raw talent isn’t enough to succeed in the big leagues. In his case, it may be enough to have a career, but it takes another level of work ethic and commitment to truly count among the best in the game. It’s a common tale that most of the best athletes in the world also have the best work ethics. If they also happen to have the natural gifts that Vlad Jr. was born with, then even better.

As we’ve seen throughout this offseason, and with another update circulating on social media yesterday, Guerrero Jr. seems to have taken that lesson to heart since the season ended, reportedly dropping as much as 40 pounds from his top weight this summer, and showing a new dedication to his fitness and to his craft. Obviously that’s going to benefit him in 2021 in a lot of ways, but the long-term effects may be even more significant.

If the slugger can take significant strides in his performance, and also his endurance, that should be the motivating factor to make his new routines into permanent practice. It’s not easy to dedicate yourself to a fitness regimen, and likely a strict dietary plan, but it becomes a heck of a lot easier when you start to see the fruits of your work and sacrifice.

Of course, the key will be for Vlad Jr. to have a healthy 2021, and hopefully a productive one as a result of his hard work. I’m not sure I’m ready to buy into the idea that he is interested in moving back to third base, but I wouldn’t suggest it’s impossible, especially if that’s part of what’s driving him. Whatever it is, it’s a step in maturity for a talented player who is still a very young man, and it looks like he’s meeting the challenge head on this winter.

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Would he be working this hard if he had just finished an All-Star season? Not likely, which makes the idea of seeing Guerrero Jr. in the best shape of his life so exciting. We’ve witnessed what he can do to a baseball at times, but after taking his lumps over his first two MLB seasons and learning some important lessons, don’t be surprised if he reaches a new level in 2021, and is ultimately a better player in the long run because of the journey it took to get there.

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