Pitcher, tee ... Guerrero still hits them out

Top Jays prospect backs up EL honors with two homers, five RBIs

With 66 total bases, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stands atop the Double-A Eastern League. (Rick Nelson/MiLB.com)

By Chris Bumbaca / MiLB.com | May 7, 2018 11:29 PM

To tee or not to tee?

That's the question Vladimir Guerrero Jr. doesn't have to answer, actually. He's going to hit the ball over the fence either way. 

Baseball's No. 3 overall prospect slugged his fourth and fifth long balls of the season, plating five runs, as Double-A New Hampshire defeated Portland, 10-2, at Northeast Dental Stadium on Monday. Earlier in the day, Guerrero Jr. went viral for displaying his raw power by hitting an opposite-field homer off a tee.

Video: Guerrero Jr. hits second homer of game

"He's so sure of himself of everything that he does at the plate," Fisher Cats hitting coach Hunter Mense said. "He has such a good idea. One, how he's going to be pitched. Two, how he's going to attack the pitcher. Three, he's just so committed to what he's doing. There's so much confidence that just oozes from everything that he does. It's so much fun to watch because there's never a time that he goes to the plate where he feels like he doesn't have the upper hand."

After Jonathan Davis and Bo Bichette drew walks ahead of him in the first inning, Guerrero Jr. laid off a trio of pitches on the outer part of the plate for a 2-1 count. When Portland right-hander Kevin McAvoy left the fourth pitch down the middle, the Blue Jays No. 1 prospect made him pay, walloping the offering to left field.

"He'll go up there and look for a certain pitch," Mense said. "If it doesn't come in that one certain area, in that one certain zone that he's looking, he'll go ahead and take them. He's so good at hitting with two strikes too that he's perfectly OK with taking pitches and getting himself to two strikes, knowing that if that guy still makes a mistake, [he'll punish him]."

Video: Guerrero blasts off for Fisher Cats

Most guys become too excited when pouncing on pitcher's mistakes. But Mense has noted that Guerrero Jr. never compromises himself. 

"It's going to be hit a long ways if they do make that mistake," he added. 

Guerrero Jr. grounded in his next two at-bats. In the sixth, the 19-year-old worked the count full against Sea Dogs righty Jake Cosart. After Guerrero Jr. connected with the payoff pitch, it didn't touch anything until hitting the hotel far beyond the left-field wall. It marked the second multi-homer game of his career and his first since 2016. He grounded into a forceout during his final at-bat in the eighth.

"They have a little awning, a little deck area," Mense said of his charge's second dinger. "I think it hit on top of the awning, bounced and then hit the hotel. But if the awning wasn't there, it would have hit the hotel in the air. It was one of those majestic ones. Every time he takes a swing, it's like you get the sense, 'Man, if he hit that ball that he just fouled off it would go a really long ways.' That was one he did hit it. It just kept going. One of those where everybody stands up and watches it."


Gameday box score


The reigning Eastern League Player of the Week leads the circuit in RBIs (35) and average (.398) and ranks second in OPS (1.126).

"You gotta give a lot of credit to those guys ahead of him. ... [Bichette's] done a tremendous job," Mense said. "The average isn't like what it has been in the last couple years, where it's up in the .350s or whatever it is, but he's still so productive and he makes guys work so hard. I think that's part of the things that get overlooked too. Not only does Vladdy come up with guys in scoring position a lot because those guys get on, but just the toll it takes on pitchers to get through those two guys to get to Vladdy, you can't obviously take a break. That's the really cool thing about watching these guys all work together."

When Guerrero Jr. performed his tee feat, Mense was working with other hitters in the cage, but he eventually saw the clip. Nothing Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero's son does surprises him anymore. 

"I can tell you this ... there are almost times when things look too easy for him," the coach said. "When you challenge him with something and say, 'Hey, you're hitting off a tee and this is really easy, so let's see if you can hit one out.' Sure enough, he can do that kind of stuff. When he gets into at-bats with some really good pitchers or really big situations, you can count on him getting it done. Because it's a challenge and he's stepping up to it." 

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Mense insists the best part about Guerrero Jr. is who he is off the field.  

"His personality and how much he actually loves to play the game is really infectious," the coach said. "You don't see that as much anymore with guys. That's one of the things that rubs off, the energy and the passion that he brings every day." 

Bichette, Toronto's second-ranked prospect, roped an RBI double, scored twice and drew three walks. Cavan Biggio added a solo shot for the Fisher Cats.

Blue Jays No. 10 prospect Sean Reid-Foley (5-0) kept Portland off the board for the first four innings before allowing two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings with eight strikeouts. 

Chris Bumbaca is a contributor for MiLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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