Are expectations for Vladdy too high, or does he have another MVP-caliber season coming?

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is off to a terrible start in 2024, leading to the question of if he can return to his 2021 form, or is this a never to be repeated peak?
Los Angeles Dodgers v Toronto Blue Jays
Los Angeles Dodgers v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages

Okay, so the 2024 campaign hasn't exactly started out too well for the Toronto Blue Jays. At the time of writing following Sunday's slate of action, they find themselves below .500 and flirting with the bottom of the AL East.

Yes the Blue Jays are only 2.5 games back of a wild card spot, but the optics still don't look good, particularly on offence. By almost every major statistical measure, the lineup is producing at a terrible rate thus far this year.

In no particular order, the Blue Jays rank 26th in runs, 25th in hits, 24th in home runs and 27th in RBI. By extension, they are 23rd in batting average, 19th in OBP, and 23rd in slugging percentage and OPS.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. struggling so far in 2024

In many respects, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the poster child for the Blue Jays' mediocrity at the plate up to this point. To say he's having a horrific time so far this season, would actually be a considerable understatement.

Whilst appreciating it's still relatively early in the 2024 campaign, Guerrero is on course for the worst season of his six years in the big leagues. He's projected to easily have a career-worst slash line, OPS and OPS+.

In addition, the only reason the 25-year-old has a feasible chance at surpassing his home run and RBI totals of 2020, is because that was the COVID-19 impacted season, which only lasted 60 games. Pure and simple, he is struggling.

A breakout season

The heady days of 2021 seem like a long and distant taunting memory for Blue Jays fans, even though we are only talking three years ago. That was the season when Guerrero truly announced himself on the baseball stage, as the superstar slugger he was theoretically always destined to be.

The three-time All-Star had a ridiculously phenomenal year in 2021, as he led the league in home runs, runs and total bases. He also paced the AL in OBP, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+.

Any other season and Guerrero would have taken home the AL MVP award. Instead, he had to settle for second place behind a certain Shohei Ohtani, who was himself producing wonders at the plate -- albeit not quite to the same level -- but while also excelling as a pitcher.

The 2021 season was meant to be a launching pad for the Montreal, Quebec native to embark on a Hall of Fame-type career. Instead, here we are now in 2024, still waiting for him to fulfil his huge potential as a generational hitter.

Expectations unfair or just about right?

Some would argue that Guerrero's sensational 2021 campaign set unfair expectations, which a lot of people would fall short of. At the same time though, he possessed tools at his disposal like few others, to meet and indeed exceed the expectations, fair or not.

This leads to the reasonable question of if the 2021 Silver Slugger is capable of having another MVP-caliber season now or at some stage in the near future? On current evidence, you could argue he's further away than ever, from repeating his previous success.

The physical attributes are still there, which seem to allude to Guerrero's struggles being between the ears. Whereas previously it was conceivable being the son of a baseball Hall of Famer could benefit him, maybe this has instead only intensified the pressure -- both from himself and others -- to be a standout success in the big leagues.

As per Sportsnet's Shi Davidi, the 2022 Gold Glover won his arbitration case against the Blue Jays back in February, resulting in a record $19.9M salary award through a hearing. As things stand, he is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the conclusion of next season.

Guerrero wants to play his whole career in Toronto but, as per Jays Journal's Charles Kime, the first baseman has said the Blue Jays have yet to discuss a contract extension with him. Does this allude to the team still not being convinced at committing long-term, especially if he continues to fail to live up to what is expected of him?

No matter how much pure talent and potential a player has, it won't matter much if they do not have the necessary mental fortitude -- and indeed desire -- to overcome all obstacles in their pursuit of success. How much does someone want it, and are they prepared to make all necessary sacrifices?

Ex-Blue Jays fan favorite says team pursued him over the offseason; couldn't meet his small demand. Ex-Blue Jays fan favorite says team pursued him over the offseason; couldn't meet his small demand. dark. Next

Major League Baseball (and indeed all professional sports) is littered with numerous examples throughout the years/decades of players who had all the talent to be a star, but ultimately fell short of expectations. If Guerrero isn't careful, he could be on the path to becoming yet another case of someone with potential, who in the end wasted their ability and left fans and media alike wondering about what could have been ...