Thanks to the incredibly high bar Vladimir Guerrero Jr. set in 2021, Blue Jays fans were a little disappointed with his 2022 campaign, and understandably so.
That’s not to suggest that Vlad Jr. had a bad year by any means, he just didn’t live up to the production we saw from him the year prior. Despite it being a bit of a down year, he still finished the season slashing .274/.339/.480 with 32 home runs, 35 doubles, and 97 RBI, good for 4.0 bWAR. For most players in the big leagues, that’s a very successful performance.
All things considered, we should be thrilled with that stat line from a young player like Guerrero Jr. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that he also won a Gold Glove for his defensive work at first base, which is still a relatively new position for him. Add a second consecutive All-Star appearance, and the Blue Jays should be feeling fortunate to have such a talented youngster on the roster and under control control for at least three more seasons.
That said, I do understand why fans were underwhelmed this past season, especially when you look at the production from 2021. That year he finished 2nd in AL MVP voting and slashed a ridiculous .311/.401/.601 with 47 home runs and 111 RBI, good for 6.8 bWAR. If we’re being honest with ourselves, we probably had unfair expectations of the young phenom as the 2022 campaign began, and it didn’t help that he confidently talked about the “movie” we were all about to see.
I don’t mean to suggest that fans have turned on Vlad Jr., but I have found it interesting to see how the narrative has changed from a year ago. At that time it wasn’t hard to find fans and writers proclaiming that the Blue Jays should lock up the Canadian-born slugger to a huge contract for a decade or longer. While there’s still an appetite for that, I’m not sure the enthusiasm is the same, at least as far as recklessly throwing a blank cheque in his camp’s direction.
There are many reasons for that, but I think some of us are losing perspective when it comes to Guerrero Jr., and just what he’s accomplished as a big leaguer at such a young age. The Blue Jays twitter account actually released a graphic on Thursday that provided a great reminder of what he’s accomplished by the age of just 23 years old.
It’s easy to forget that he debuted in the big leagues as a 20 year old, which is something only the very best prospects even have a chance at doing. He didn’t thrive right away either, and eventually after a position change and a new commitment to fitness, we saw the potential come to fruition last year. In many ways, that’s why the 2022 results are viewed as a disappointment by so many.
But let’s not kid ourselves here, at an age where most professional baseball players are still refining their skills in the minor leagues, or maybe just reaching the highest level, Guerrero Jr. already has a very impressive resume that includes awards for both his offence, and now his defence as well.
Having said all that, I’ll admit that I’m hoping to see a Vlad Jr. in 2023 that more closely resembles the hitter we watched in 2021, rather than the production he provided this past season. Either way though, the Blue Jays are very fortunate to have one of the most talented hitters in the world on their side, so let’s try not to lose perspective of that.