At last.Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is headed to the Major Leagues for the first time, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo revealed Wednesday. He's set to make his debut against the A's on Friday in Toronto.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is headed to the Major Leagues for the first time, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo revealed Wednesday. He's set to make his debut against the A's on Friday in Toronto.
"It's a big moment for the Toronto Blue Jays. He's the No. 1 prospect in baseball ... " Montoyo told reporters. "Hopefully, he becomes what everybody thinks he can become, and that's going to be good for all of us."
The 20-year-old third baseman has been one of the Minors' most productive hitters since debuting with Rookie Advanced Bluefield in 2016. He batted .323/.425/.485 with 13 homers as an 18-year-old between Class A Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin a year later in his first full Minor League season, but he was almost historically good at the plate last year. The right-handed slugger flirted with the .400 mark for much of the campaign and ended up leading the Minor Leagues in batting (.381), slugging percentage (.636) and OPS (1.073). He tacked on 20 homers among 50 extra-base hits in 95 games across four levels, mostly Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo.
Guerrero was expected to make a push for a big league spot this spring but suffered a strained oblique muscle after six Grapefruit League games. As a result, he opened the season on a rehab assignment with Dunedin and went 4-for-15 (.267) with a double in four games back in the Florida State League. He returned to the Buffalo roster on April 11 and promptly homered in his first game back with the Bisons. Before Wednesday's promotion, he was hitting .333 at Triple-A. His homer on April 17 in Pawtucket made headlines for leaving McCoy Stadium, a sign that his power had fully returned following the oblique injury.
Earlier Wednesday, Guerrero cracked his third homer of the season in his final game prior to the promotion.
The native of the Dominican Republic and son of the Hall of Famer of the same name has become the game's top prospect almost solely because of his potential offensive value. Not only does Guerrero hit for a high average, he has elite plate discipline. He struck out 38 times while drawing 37 walks in 408 plate appearances a year ago and leaves the Minor Leagues with more walks (150) than strikeouts (139) in his four-season career.
"I think we have to be patient, but I honestly think he's going to do well," Montoyo said. "Whatever happens, we have to be patient. Defensively, offensively, because he's 20 years old. He's comfortable. He's not going to be nervous and scared of the big leagues. ... I think he'll be fine when he comes here."
His defense remains a question at the hot corner, and that's the part of his game the Jays have wanted him to develop most over the past year, although it should be noted the club called him up after ensuring he'll be under team control for one more year than he would have been had he gotten the promotion on Opening Day. Still, Guerrero has developed enough that he should be an improvement over Brandon Drury, who struggled early in his second season with Toronto.
The bat has been Major League-ready for a while. And now, officially, so is Vlad Jr.
"The funny thing about it, I haven't seen him play," Montoyo said. "I hear everything from everybody else, which I believe what people say. But the only time I saw him was in Spring Training, the 20 at-bats or so that I saw ... I want to see what everybody is talking about -- in person."
Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.