Toolshed: Top 10 Vlad Jr. moments

Counting down top prospect's memorable homers, highlights

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has played for six Toronto affiliates in four seasons. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com, Buffalo Bisons)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | April 19, 2019 10:00 AM

There were 27 home runs hit in the Major Leagues on Wednesday. None of them generated as many headlines as one that came a level lower. 

For not the first time -- and likely not the last time, either -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit the shot seen 'round the internet. 

MLB.com's top overall prospect uncorked a no-doubter during Triple-A Buffalo's game at Pawtucket's McCoy Stadium that left the ballpark completely and traveled toward the parking lot beyond left field. Did it have to pay for parking? Did it have its parking validated? Did it reach Providence, or even Worcester, two years ahead of Pawtucket's planned move there? Who's to say?

Video: Vlad Jr. blasts off for Bisons

What we can say is that this was just the latest in a series of memorable moments created by the 20-year-old third baseman since he signed with the Blue Jays on July 2, 2015. A career .331 hitter who's only gotten better and more powerful the higher he climbs, Guerrero has generated more highlights during his four seasons in the Minor Leagues than perhaps any other player. With a promotion to Toronto coming any day now, let's look back at the 10 most memorable moments he's authored ... so far. 

10. First Midwest League home run

Video: Top Jays prospect Guerrero hits first MWL blast

Skipping over the complexes, Guerrero opened his career with Rookie Advanced Bluefield in 2016 and hit .271/.359/.449 with eight homers and 15 stole bases over 62 games as a 17-year-old. The Jays saw enough there to test him with an assignment to Class A Lansing the following spring, when he was the same age as a typical American high-school senior. In his Lugnuts debut on April 7, 2017, Guerrero hit his first home run that was caught on MiLB.TV. He belted 13 that season between Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin, finishing with a .323 average and .910 OPS over 119 games.

Notice the differences in his swing. Guerrero looks a little looser in his stance than he does in his current stance and doesn't have the same foot tap, and the bat speed isn't quite as vicious. But he still does an incredible job of showing power the other way -- something rarely said about players at that age or playing level. And it was just the beginning.

9. Diving snag

Video: Vlad Jr. makes diving snag on liner

If Guerrero has a glaring weakness, it's his glove at the hot corner. He was signed as an outfielder, like his famous father, but given his growing frame -- he's currently listed at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds -- the Jays figured he'd be a batter fit on the dirt. All 241 of his Minor League starts have come at third base, where he's been a work in progress when it comes to range and footwork. Matt Chapman or Nolan Arenado, he is not. He's likely closer to Miguel Cabrera, who moved across the diamond after opening his Major League career at third as well.

That makes a diving stop like this one stand out all the more. Look, Guerrero's bat is more than good enough to cover up any defensive issues, but every once in a while, he'll show explosive reflexes to make the highlight reel for his play on the other end.

8. One-handed double

It went into the book as a double -- not an entirely notable knock considering Guerrero has 71 of those during the regular season in the Minors. However, this Grapefruit League two-bagger spread quickly across the internet for the way in which Vlad Jr. hit it. Facing Yankees right-hander Domingo German, Guerrero reached down, let go with the right hand and still struck the ball all the way to the left-field wall with only his left hand on the bat. If not for a decently high fence at Dunedin Stadium, this would have been out for a homer. Fellow third baseman Adrian Beltre can have his extra-base hits from one knee. Guerrero will take his singlehandedly. 

7. Homer in first game back with Buffalo

Video: Vlad Jr's first 2019 homer with Buffalo

That double may have been the biggest thing to happen to Guerrero in the spring, as his preseason ended prematurely due to a strained oblique suffered on March 8. He rehabbed in the warmth of the Florida State League for a week with Dunedin before linking up with Triple-A Buffalo on April 11. He let the International League know he was back with authority, ripping this three-run homer to left for a no-doubter in his third Triple-A plate appearance of 2019. 

Of note: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre first baseman Mike Ford just missed a chance to catch a foul pop up near the dugout on the right side, and Guerrero homered on the next pitch. Don't give Vlad Jr. extra chances, folks.

6. Homer off tee

Video: Guerrero Jr. impresses Pena with homer off tee

Carlos Pena hit 286 home runs in the Major Leagues. His 172 from 2007-11 alone rank sixth among all Major Leaguers over that span. That's more than Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Ryan Braun and Jose Bautista in that time. The guy knows power. Yet you can see how impressed he was by the fact that Guerrero went deep off the tee in an MLB Network segment at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. None of this 100-coming-in, 100-going-out stuff. This was zero staying put, much faster going out. There's a decent chance other prospects could do this same trick -- Eloy Jimenez almost certainly could -- but we don't have video evidence of that happening. We do with Vlad Jr., and this tee session only added to his legend. 

5. Walking off in Manchester

Video: Vladimir Guerrero Jr hits a walk-off home run

This is the only walk-off homer Guerrero has hit ... during the Minor League regular season. That designation will be important for reasons coming later.

The clip itself is great for many reasons. Facing a 5-4 deficit in the seventh inning of a seven-frame game, the top Blue Jays prospect stepped to the plate already 3-for-3 on the day when he poked an 0-1 offering from Binghamton right-handed reliever Tyler Bashlor the other way. The Rumble Ponies reliever immediately points to the sky expecting it to be a pop fly to right for the first out of the final inning. Instead, Guerrero had put enough muscle into it to the send the ball over the wall for a two-run shot. As Guerrero rounds third, he chucks his helmet and later leaps into a mob of his New Hampshire teammates crowding home. 

Guerrero's four hits on the afternoon matched a career high, making the whole affair possibly the most dominant single-game performance of his young career.

4. Homering in four straight

Video: Vlad Jr. homers in four straight games for Buffalo

There was no doubt Guerrero took his good bat and plate discipline to Triple-A Buffalo last season. He went 7-for-18 (.389) with eight walks and two strikeouts over his first seven games with the Bisons. But his power hadn't quite made the journey in that first week as he picked up just one extra-base hit.

That all changed in his eighth game with the club on Aug. 8, when he took No. 2 Braves prospect Kyle Wright deep to center. (He also doubled off Wright earlier in that game.) He homered again on Aug. 9 (off another Top-100 prospect in Bryse Wilson). He homered again on Aug. 10. And then one more time for good measure on Aug. 11. That marked home runs in four straight games for the then-19-year-old. Reminder: he was the only teenaged position player to get regular at-bats in the International League last season.

Guerrero wouldn't homer again until Aug. 27, but this stretch covered him in that department for a good long while. He finished his first run with the Bisons with a .336/.414/.564 line, six homers, 15 walks and 10 strikeouts over 30 games.

3. Homer off hotel

Video: Guerrero Jr. hits second homer of game

One of the neat features about the Rogers Centre is the Toronto Marriott City Centre Hotel overlooking the field in center. Maybe Guerrero was just getting used to some target practice. 

New Hampshire's Northeast Delta Dental Stadium also features a hotel out in left-center -- this one the Hilton Garden Inn of Downtown Manchester. Already having hit a homer earlier in the May 7, 2018 game against Portland, Guerrero teed off a second time in the sixth for an absolute monster shot that may have awoken any unsuspecting guest trying to get in some early shut-eye. Hitting a big edifice -- like the Western Metal Supply Co. building in San Diego or the lights at old Tiger Stadium -- always makes for a more impressive homer, and this certainly ticked the box.

2. Homer in Pawtucket

2019 MiLB include

Maybe it's the recency of this one. There's a tendency to make what we just saw seem more special. And yet Guerrero's blast Wednesday still had a different flavor to it. It was estimated to have gone about 440 feet, about 115 feet beyond the foul pole in left. It cleared everything in McCoy Stadium, which only adds to the legendary feel. And it came at a time when almost the entire baseball world has been calling for his ascension to the Major Leagues. The oblique injury and recovery were reasons he wasn't yet with Toronto -- along with, of course, his still unticking service-time clock -- but he obliterated any worries just as swiftly as he obliterated the baseball. This homer wasn't about one hitter grabbing a headline for a night. It was the game's top prospect showing the Blue Jays, the fans and all of baseball that he can still surprise us.

1. Walking off in Montreal

This couldn't be anything else.

Vladimir Guerrero played eight Major League seasons with the Montreal Expos, making four All-Star teams along the way and becoming the last big face of the franchise before it departed for Washington in 2005. In 1999, his oldest son (Vladimir Jr.) was born in Montreal, though he would grow up in his father's native Dominican Republic. A shot of a young Vlad Jr. tipping his cap to the Expos home crowd has garnered fame over the years.

So it was only appropriate in the Blue Jays' spring exhibition against the Cardinals at Olympic Stadium on March 27, 2018 that a certain right-handed slugger wearing his father's No. 27 would come to the plate against Jack Flaherty in a scoreless game with two outs in the ninth inning. After receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, Guerrero connected on the second pitch he saw, launching the ball way over the fence in left-center and sending the city of Montreal and perhaps the whole of Canada into bedlam along with it. "Right on cue," screamed Buck Martinez as it left the yard. Guerrero's longtime teammate and fellow prospect Bo Bichette can be seen going wild while other Blue Jays trot to home to celebrate in slight disbelief. Did that just happen? Here of all places? It did. It wasn't scripted. It was real.

It was a taste of what Guerrero can do in a Major League stadium. More should be right around the corner.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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