The Blue Jays are promoting third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the top prospect in baseball as ranked by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, to the majors for Friday night’s game against the Athletics. Manager Charlie Montoyo shared the news with the media early Wednesday evening after the Blue Jays were swept by the Giants in a two-game series:
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is coming up. The #BlueJays plan to call him up for Friday. The No. 1 prospect will make his much-anticipated major league debut at the Rogers Centre against the Oakland A’s— Kaitlyn McGrath (@kaitlyncmcgrath) April 24, 2019
Guerrero, the son of Baseball Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, has been tearing the minors apart for the last year-plus. He posted an insane .381/.437/.636 slash line with 20 homers across three levels (High-A, Double-A, Triple-A) last season, and he very well could have earned a September call-up if the Blue Jays hadn’t opted to maintain optimal service-time control and 40-man roster flexibility by sending him to the Arizona Fall League instead.
He was theoretically in line to earn a spot on Toronto’s Opening Day roster this spring, but he suffered an oblique injury in spring training that kept him from even beginning a rehab assignment at High-A Dunedin until April 4. Of course, the prospect of gaining another year of control over him by keeping him off the major-league roster until after April 12 certainly presented the Blue Jays’ front office with a nice incentive to slow-play him.
Guerrero’s ascension to the majors is very cool for a variety of reasons: First of all, he’ll have the opportunity to captivate Canadian baseball fans in the same way his father did — Guerrero Jr., who spent the first eight seasons of his career in Montreal, is the seventh-most valuable player in Expos/Nationals franchise history, according to Baseball Reference. Secondly, he’s about as much of a prodigy as major-league position player can be in the age of service-time manipulation, having turned 20 years old just over a month ago. If he’s as good as he’s been hyped up to be (and as his minor-league numbers would indicate), it’ll be extremely fun to watch a literal kid thrive against established big-leaguers.
In eight Triple-A games this season, Guerrero Jr. has posted a .367/.424/.700 slash line with three homers, so it seems as if he’ll be well-equipped to succeed as a contact hitter. There are some questions that remain in other areas, most notably on defense. Guerrero is listed at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, and without having the benefit of detailed defensive metrics in the minor leagues, it seems as if he’s a guy who is destined to end up as a first baseman or DH unless he makes some rather dramatic physical transformations. For what it’s worth, MLB Pipeline gives him a 45 rating in the field — meaning he doesn’t project to be totally unplayable, but will probably be below-average at the hot corner.
In addition, he still seems to be developing his power-hitting stroke, though his numbers certainly indicate a trend in the right direction. After hitting 13 homers over 527 plate appearances between Low-A and High-A in 2017, Guerrero hit 20 over 408 PAs between three levels last year (though, in a somewhat-concerning development, he didn’t hit any over 88 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League). Minor-league home run totals tend to rank lower than those of the majors, even with some leagues being significantly more hitter-friendly than the majors (Aaron Judge never hit more than 20 homers in a minor-league season, for what it’s worth), so there’s no need to worry. But at just barely 20 years old and most of his power manifesting itself in the form of doubles thus far in his minor-league career, Guerrero still may have some development ahead of him before he becomes as fearsome of a home-run threat as guys like Judge, Mike Trout, Khris Davis, J.D. Martinez, and Nolan Arenado.