Fresh off a rehab assignment in Florida, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showed no signs of rust. MLB.com's top overall prospect mashed a homer and a double to plate four runs in his 2019 Triple-A debut, though Buffalo dropped a 9-8 decision to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 10 innings Thursday at PNC Field. It marked
Fresh off a rehab assignment in Florida, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showed no signs of rust.
MLB.com's top overall prospect mashed a homer and a double to plate four runs in his 2019 Triple-A debut, though Buffalo dropped a 9-8 decision to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 10 innings Thursday at PNC Field. It marked the fifth time that Guerrero has collected at least four RBIs in one game.
Even though the Blue Jays phenom was trading the warmth of the Sunshine State for the colder weather of the Northeast, getting back to the International League -- just a stone's throw away the Majors -- was a welcome change of scenery.
"I just kept thinking it was good for him to finally start the season, so to speak," Bisons manager Bob Meacham said. "He played some games in Dunedin, but where he was last year ending in Triple-A with us ... it must have been nice to get out of Florida and get started on this season on a positive note. And he certainly did that by getting on base almost every time and making things happen for us."
Guerrero began Spring Training in big league camp, going 4-for-19 with two doubles in six Grapefruit League contests before suffering a strained left oblique on March 8. Originally expected to start the year in extended spring training, the son of a Hall of Famer opened with Class A Advanced Dunedin. Guerrero hit safely in all four games he played in the Florida State League, collecting a double and an RBI.
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By walking and reaching on an error in addition to his two extra-base knocks while serving as Buffalo's designated hitter, Guerrero easily produced his best game of the young season. And according to Meacham, it would've been hard to top that effort.
"I don't know [how] it could be any more positive of a step," the skipper said. "[He had] the long homer, a double off the wall, getting on base four out of five times and scoring a bunch. It's a great start for him, and I'm sure he's looking forward to starting this season off with a bang and he got to do it today."
Making his much-anticipated return to the International League, Guerrero started off by drawing a free pass in a seven-pitch battle with No. 20 Yankees prospectChance Adams in the first inning.
Two frames later against the right-hander, he laced a double to center field that drove in Eric Sogard for his second RBI of the season. Second-ranked Blue Jays prospectBo Bichette and Sogard ripped one-out singles in the fifth to set the stage for Guerrero again. He greeted righty reliever Adonis Rosa by sending the fourth pitch of the at-bat over the wall in left field and onto the walkway beyond the bullpen.
In 100 games since the start of last year, the 20-year-old third baseman has 21 homers and 53 extra-base hits.
"It's a good lesson for him. I want to say in one of his other at-bats, he got ahead of the count and tried to do too much," Meacham said. "But that time he didn't. That time he stayed on the ball. ... It was a good count to hit. He stayed on the ball and was able to drive it. I'm sure that's what he wants to do every time, and that's what his approach should be.
"It's a good reminder to have those two different choices when you're ahead in the count. And I guess the results were better when he didn't try to do too much. When he tried to do too much, the results weren't as good, so that was a good learning point for him."
He reached base a fourth time in the seventh on a throwing error by third baseman Gosuke Katoh, and he scored on 11th-ranked Toronto prospect Anthony Alford's three-run jack to left. Guerrero ended his night with a groundout to third.
The Montreal native rode his 80-grade hit tool and 70 in the power department through a remarkable 2018 season in which he flirted with a .400 average between Double-A New Hampshire and Buffalo. Guerrero finished with a .381/.437/.636 line, with 20 long balls and 78 RBIs.
Guerrero has shown plenty of promise at the dish in his professional career, but Meacham would like to see the budding star fine-tune his work in the field and on the bases as he approaches the next level. As such, Guerrero is expected to start at the hot corner Friday night against the RailRiders.
"There's a lot of sides to the game, it's not just hitting," the Bisons manager said. "I want to see him play third base [Friday]. I can't wait to get to see him get out there and do that. He's gotta run the bases, do some heads-up things on the bases, help his teammates and help everyone around him get better just by the little things he does before the game and even during the game.
"When you play baseball, you have more than just one or two things to do. You have to get in shape and get your mind in shape to know how to play the game and make everyone around you better."
After the Bisons tied the score, 8-8, the RailRiders walked it off in the 10th when pinch-hitter Mandy Alvarez singled in Billy Burns. Katoh blasted his second dinger of the year and drove in three runs while Mike Ford collected two hits, two walks, two RBIs and a run scored for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Andrew Battifarano is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter, @AndrewAtBatt.