July 2, 2015: The Blue Jays signed Guerrero Jr. via scouts Ismael Cruz, Sandy Rosario and Luciano Del Rosario. He received $3.9 million. (Toronto picked up extra bonus money by trading prospects Chase DeJong and Tim Locastro.)
He trained with his uncle, Wilton, who played in the Majors with Vlady Jr.'s dad.
“I remember his father used to take him to play against grown men,” said Ismael Cruz, who was in charge of international scouting for the Blue Jays at the time and now runs the Dodgers’ international department. “He would take him at 14 and play against guys 25 and over. He loves the challenge. He never wanted to play with his peers—he was always playing ahead of his time. That helped him. It helped him see velocity, it helped him see breaking balls. I’ve never seen a J2 guy who liked hitting breaking balls more than fastballs. That’s one thing I remember clearly, that he was waiting for that breaking ball. His plate discipline was very good.
“He studied pitchers,” Cruz said. “At 15, he had a plan going into the box. He would tell us, ‘This guy uses this pitch to go for a strikeout. I want to make him believe he’s got me on the first breaking ball, then get him on the second one.’ Stuff you don’t hear from a 15-year-old kid.”
The son of nine-time All-Star and 2004 AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero, the righthanded batter could be the best overall hitter in the class, and some consider him the best overall international free agent in 2015.
"Those kind of guys don't come across very often," said Blue Jays special assistant of Latin American operations Ismael Cruz on Thursday. "So it was either play all of your marbles on one guy or it was go out and get a couple of players that are fine, but for us, Vladimir is a difference-maker. He has the potential to be a very, very special kid."
Guerrero Jr. has big raw power, and he continues to evolve as a hitter. He reminds some scouts of his father and has shown the ability to hit a pitch almost anywhere it is thrown, but his overall body frame is much bigger than his father's was at the same age.
Some scouts wonder if Guerrero Jr.'s growing body will eventually force him to move out of the outfield, but others are less concerned about his build because of his family pedigree. The comparisons to his father likely will continue for years, and while the raw power might be similar, there also are a lot of differences between the two.
"He doesn't have his dad's arm or speed, have to be truthful on that, but he's only 16," Cruz said. "He has a better bat now than his father did at that age and it's not a swing that's going to go away, he's had it for a long time and he has always hit. He's hit all his life and he's always faced competition above him." (Jesse Sanchez and Gregor Chisholm - MLB.com- July 2nd, 2015)
In 2016, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Guerrero Jr. as the 3rd-best prospect in the Blue Jays organization. But they moved him to #1 before 2017 spring training. And he stayed at #1 in 2018. Then in the spring of 2019, Vlady was #1 for the third year in a row.
Vlady Jr. has a real passion for the game. He loves to play. And he comes with several of his dad's mannerisms—a lack of battng gloves and a strong facial resemblance among many.
April 2016: The Harrisburg Senators erected a life size bobblehead of Guerrero's dad.
June 24, 2016: Rain put the highly anticipated professional debut of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on hold on June 23, 2016, as Rookie-level Bluefield's season opener against Bristol was suspended after three innings. The weather couldn't stop the 17-year-old the next night, however, as the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect recorded his first pro hit and, later, his first home run.
On the 23rd, Guerrero Jr. grounded out to shortstop with two outs in the bottom of the first in his only trip to the plate before the skies opened up. When the game resumed on the 24th, Guerrero Jr., playing with his father in attendance for a second straight night, grounded out twice more before connecting on his first pro knock in the bottom of the seventh inning, when he hit a two-run single to right field.
"I felt no pressure after yesterday's game and was able to stay focused today," Guerrero Jr. told MLB.com via his translator following the completion of Bluefield's second game. "[Staying focused] was something I watched my dad do growing up, so I was ready for the challenge.
"I always talk to my dad before and after games, even when he's not there watching me. We talked before today and he really didn't have any specific advice. He just encouraged me, mostly," added Guerrero Jr.
Yet, whatever his father might have said paid huge dividends for Guerrero Jr. in the second game between Bluefield and Bristol as he connected on his first pro homer.
"It was a moment I've been dreaming of," said Guerrero Jr. about his home run, a go-ahead two-run shot to left field with two outs in the bottom of the third inning. "I got that first one out of the way and hope many more will come. With my dad's help I feel like I can accomplish that."
Guerrero Jr. finished the second game 1-for-3 at the plate. For the day, he was 2-for-7 with four RBIs. (Rosenbaum - MLB.com)
Vlady Jr. is the son of Vladimir Guerrero, nephew of Wilton Guerrero, cousin of Gabriel Guerrero.
In 2017, Guerrero represented the Blue Jays in the All-Star Futures game.
Vlady Jr. has had to bide his time to move up the ladder. “God controls my life, and he has the control of everything,” Guerrero said through a translator, “and the same with the organization. They know when it’s a good moment to move up, so I’m not trying to rush anything, because they’ve got the control. I just keep going, and I try to get better every day, give 100 percent and don’t think about it because they have the control of that.”
It was a scene that played out regularly in Montreal for eight years: The mention of Vladimir Guerrero's name over the Olympic Stadium sound system, followed by loud cheers and a standing ovation. On a night in Spring Training 2018, it was for Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of the Expos' fan favorite who was back in Montreal 19 years and 10 days after being born there—and 15 years since his father last suited up in the city.
"It was very nice of them," Guerrero said. "I was just happy. I said, 'OK, I'm back home now.'"
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons inserted Guerrero as a defensive replacement at third base in the seventh inning of an exhibition game. The crowd began to cheer when it saw him on the scoreboard. Then came the announcement, followed by an even louder show of appreciation as the 25,335 in attendance stood on their feet.
"It was pretty cool," Gibbons said of the crowd's reaction. "I really enjoyed it, and I know he feels pretty good about that. His dad was a legend here."
Guerrero, donning his father's No. 27, never requested the number; it turned out to be a surprise one day after practice when he was packing his bag and saw the team had given it to him.
"I feel very proud that they did that for me," acknowledged Guerrero, who said his father was the first person he called when the Blue Jays told him he was making the trip to Montreal. "It motivates me to have my dad's number on my back and wear his number."
Following in the footsteps of a professional athlete father comes with inherent pressure. Add in the factor of a Hall of Fame career and sharing the same name and number. But the younger Guerrero doesn't see it that way. If anything, it just adds to the motivation.
"I don't feel pressure. I think it gives me more energy and excitement," Guerrero noted. "My dad's a Hall of Famer and I want to be like him. I'm just trying to give my 100 percent and have fun when I go out there, like he did."
Guerrero was just a youngster when his father was in Montreal, just 4 years old when he said goodbye to the city. And although it has been quite some time, some memories came right back to him when he got to town.
His first stop upon arrival? Going for poutine, a Quebec dish consisting of French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. And when he got to the stadium, he had his eyes peeled for another tasty memory. "The first thing when I came in, I was looking for the ice cream machine because I remembered that, but I found out it's not there anymore," Guerrero said. "Every time I came here, the first thing was to eat ice cream from that machine."
And as Guerrero learns to get his game ready for eventual duty with the Blue Jays, he'll do so with lessons learned from his Hall of Fame-bound father. "What I learned the most from my dad was to be humble and have fun every time I go out on the field and give a hundred percent," Guerrero. "That's what I do, and that's what I'll keep doing." (Engel - mlb.com - 3/26/18)
Asked about his father's accomplishments, Vlady Jr. said, "It inspires me to keep working to keep getting better and put up the same numbers he did."
Exactly the same?
"I don't want to put up better numbers than him, or less," Guerrero Jr. said. "I want to put up exactly what he did."
This is the future Vlad Jr. has envisioned since he was six, when he first decided he wanted to play professionally. From then, he was tutored in the Dominican Republic by his uncle, former big leaguer Wilton Guerrero. By age 13, he was digging in against 18- and 19-year old pitchers—and clobbering them.
"I wasn't scared, because they threw the ball and I hit it," he says nonchalantly. (Sports Illustrated - 6/04/2018)
Jan 18, 2019: The Blue Jays gathered their brightest young stars in Toronto for their annual Development Program, which the organization believes will advance the talent and leadership of its highly anticipated top prospects. In what Blue Jays fans will hope is a sign of things to come, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stood in the middle of it all with a sparkling championship ring on his finger.
Baseball's top prospect was one of several players in the room who starred on the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats' championship run in the Eastern League, and despite the endless accolades he's collecting as an individual player, the 19-year-old was eager to shift the focus. Guerrero is familiar with leading in offensive stat categories, but now, the prodigious power hitter is becoming more comfortable with being a leader off the field.
"I know this is a very talented team," Guerrero said through the club's mental performance coach and translator, Tanya Bialostozky. "I'm excited to see all of the young talent coming up together and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together."
With the stars of the Blue Jays' 2015 and '16 playoff runs nearly all departed and the club in a clear rebuilding phase, all eyes are on Guerrero. It's been that way since he first stepped onto a baseball diamond, but he's finally reached the point that Toronto has been waiting for. The next time that Guerrero sets foot in that locker room, it will be for his home debut.
"I'm very happy and very excited because I've played with a lot of them, so I know them," Guerrero said. "We are focused on putting up good numbers, doing a good job, and as a team coming up together, being successful."
Guerrero's shadow was hard to escape in 2018, but infielder Cavan Biggio's 26 home runs and 99 RBIs certainly made some noise. Biggio and Guerrero share famous MLB bloodlines and are pushing one another toward the Majors.
"Vladdy is a very special player," said Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. "His mix of power and contact, his makeup, he's going to be a good fit right here in this locker room. A lot of guys are going to get along with him. He's going to listen. He's going to be very mature and humble about it, and I think that's what combines everything for him."
Guerrero's leadership was brought up unprompted by several teammates. Players like Biggio and Toronto's top shortstop prospect, Bo Bichette, say that Guerrero can lead in different ways, too. Sometimes, he's the joker, laughing along like any 19-year-old would. Earlier this week, a group of Blue Jays prospects and coaches went to a curling club in Toronto and gave one of Canada's favorite pastimes a try, which led to plenty of banter in the clubhouse.
Other times, especially when he's in the batter's box, Guerrero leads by example. He's humble, like Biggio says, but he also knows that pitchers are wary of starring in the next viral Vlad Jr. home run video.
"When I'm up there, I know that I have to be patient and pick the pitch that I want," Guerrero said. "When I step in, my mindset is that I'm the best guy in the world and that it's the other guy who has to try hard." (K Matheson - MLB.com - Jan 18, 2019)
Jan 26, 2019: The highly anticipated arrival of baseball's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline is nearing. And that's Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who retained that top spot on the MLB Pipeline's preseason Top 100 Prospects list, as revealed on MLB Network.
Guerrero headlines a Blue Jays farm system that boasts four other prospects in the Top 100: Bo Bichette (No. 11), Danny Jansen (No. 65), Nate Pearson (No. 76), and Eric Pardinho (No. 98). Exciting times lie ahead for Toronto as these players make their way toward the Majors, with Guerrero and Bichette, in particular, already knocking on the door.
Jan 28, 2019: With apologies to the mega-talented Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jimenez, it should have surprised exactly no one that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ranked atop MLB Pipeline's recently unveiled Top 100 Prospects list. He's held that distinction since Shohei Ohtani and Ronald Acuna Jr. graduated off the Top 100 last summer, and in retrospect, he may have a brighter future than either of the 2018 Rookies of the Year. All Guerrero did last year, at age 19, was lead the Minors in hitting (.381), slugging (.636) and OPS (1.120) while reaching Triple-A. Good luck finding a scout who thinks he wasn't ready to handle big league pitching as a teenager. Because there's no question that Guerrero is the best prospect in baseball, let's ask some bigger questions. Is he the best prospect in history? And if not, is he the best offensive prospect ever?
We've been posing those queries to veteran evaluators going back to the Arizona Fall League, where Guerrero again made hitting look much easier than it actually is. The consensus: His game isn't well-rounded enough to call him the best prospect ever, but it's difficult to find anyone who offered more offensive promise at a younger age.
For many scouts, Alex Rodriguez ranks as the best prospect of at least the last three decades and will be difficult to top. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 draft, he debuted in the Majors during his first pro season as an 18-year-old and was in Seattle to stay at 20. At the same age Guerrero will be this season, Rodriguez batted .358/.414/.631 with 36 homers and 15 steals and was easily the best player in the American League.
Guerrero has batted .331/.414/.529 with 146 walks and 135 strikeouts as a pro. Those numbers hold up well against Rodriguez's in the Minors at the same stage: .328/.387/.603 with 60 walks and 126 whiffs. But where Guerrero is a fringy runner and defender at best, who may or may not be able to remain at third base, Rodriguez had plus speed and defensive ability at shortstop and would go on to steal 329 bases and win a pair of Gold Gloves in the Majors.
"A-Rod was the best," said one senior executive with a National League club said. "I can't put Vlad over him. A-Rod did those things at shortstop, he was smooth. A-Rod's tools were through the roof. He was sleek, he could really run and throw. With Guerrero, the big attraction is his bat. "But if you're asking me who the best hitter was, I might say Guerrero. I'm so impressed with him."
Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Trout are two more prospects whom most scouts would rate ahead of Guerrero as all-around talents. Griffey went No. 1 overall in the 1987 draft and tore up the Minors at a .320/.428/.576 clip before becoming an everyday player in Seattle at age 19. A true five-tool talent, he won 10 Gold Gloves in center field en route to becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"The two best amateur players I ever saw would be Griffey Jr. and A-Rod," a special assistant with an NL team said. "The best athlete was Griffey. The most polished high school player was A-Rod.
There's a bit of hindsight involved with Trout, who earned some Mickey Mantle comparisons in the Minors yet wasn't universally acclaimed as the game's best prospect before he joined the Angels for good in early 2012. (Some evaluators preferred Bryce Harper, while Matt Moore also drew support after leading the Minors in strikeouts in consecutive seasons and shutting out the Rangers for seven innings in the AL Division Series.
Trout hit .342/.425/.516 in the Minors en route to becoming a perennial AL MVP Award candidate and the best player in big league history through age 26. Rodriguez and Griffey were as well regarded as hitters and sluggers as Guerrero is now. Few other über-prospects from the past few decades can make that claim. Guerrero has more hitting ability than Andruw Jones and Harper, more power than Chipper Jones, Joe Mauer or Trout.
It's interesting to compare Guerrero to his Hall of Fame father. Vlad Sr. batted .343/.403/.581 with 95 walks and 115 whiffs in his first three pro seasons before getting to the Majors, but he was also two years older than his son at the same stage and not as polished at the plate.
"The thing that amazes me is he doesn't hit like his dad did," one NL senior executive said. "Vlad Sr. was super-duper aggressive and swung at everything. This kid doesn't do that. He has great discipline and balance. The pitch selection and poise for a young guy is so impressive."
The three names that come up the most when scouts are asked for a parallel to Guerrero are all right-handed hitters: Miguel Cabrera, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield. If you're wondering about Albert Pujols, he came out of nowhere and spent just one season in Class A before becoming a superstar, so there wasn't as much time in the Minors for him to leave an impression.
The best all-around comparison for Guerrero is Cabrera, who had similar offensive prowess, defensive shortcomings and an international background, though he batted just .286/.350/.431 with twice as many strikeouts as walks as a Minor Leaguer. The best statistical resemblance belongs to Sheffield, who hit .314/.396/.539 with 157 walks versus 125 strikeouts before surfacing in the Majors at age 19. Still the most talented high school hitting prospect some scouts ever have seen, Ramirez batted .316/.408/.595 before making his big league debut at age 21.
"Vladdy is going to hit and hit for power," the NL special assistant said. "He can hit breaking balls and uses the whole field so well for a young hitter. He's very good at identifying and hitting breaking and offspeed stuff."
Manny's swing was classic, while Vladdy is more in line with Miggy because of his hand action. Manny was more direct to the ball, a line-drive swing, while Vladdy and Miggy had a bit more loop and loft in their swing at the same age.
Though it's impossible to consider Guerrero underrated, the AL senior executive thinks he doesn't get enough credit for the mental side of hitting.
"Physically, he's got the bat speed and the swing path to be with or even better than all of those guys," the executive said. "We tend to just say these guys have the genes and the great swing. But Miggy was very prepared. Manny was a hitting savant. It wasn't just all natural talent—they prepared. I've heard from other people who know him—that's going on with Vlad too." (J Callis - MLB.com - Jan 28, 2019)
April 15, 2019: Vladimir Jr. now has 1,055 career Minor League at-bats. What’s so special about that total? That’s how many Minor League at-bats his father, Vladimir Guerrero, had before he made his Major League debut on Sept. 19, 1996. Here's how they stack up:
Vlad Sr: .343 AVG, 45 HR, 184 RBI, 95 BB, 115 K in 285 G Vlad Jr: .332 AVG, 42 HR, 206 RBI, 149 BB, 137 K in 283 G (Langs - mlb.com - 4/15/19)
April 26, 2019: It took all of one game for Vladimir Jr. to prove that he has a flair for the dramatic. Guerrero sparked a late rally with a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth for the first hit of his Major League career. Three batters later, Brandon Drury came through with a two-run homer as the Blue Jays picked up their first walk-off victory of the season with a 4-2 win over the A’s at Rogers Centre.
In what was being dubbed “Vlad Jr. Day” north of the border, Guerrero made a pair of slick plays at third base, just missed hitting a couple of home runs -- including being robbed at the wall by Chad Pinder in his second at-bat -- and most impressive of all, sparked Toronto’s walk-off win. Drury technically was responsible for the go-ahead run, but make no mistake about it, Guerrero was the true hero.
“He was comfortable,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said of Guerrero, who finished 1-for-4. “That’s how he plays. I figured he would be. I was more nervous than he was. I can’t imagine handling all of that pressure, all of this press. He is who he is. He’s comfortable, relaxed and he enjoyed the game.” (Chisholm - mlb.com)
From Toronto to Oakland and a few other teams around the Majors, since Vlad Jr made his Major League debut, it was all Guerrero, all the time:
"The greats are the greats. Babe Ruth could play today, in my opinion. And this guy, the kid has grown up around the clubhouse, he’s grown up around baseball with his dad. He’s not afraid or intimidated -- you can already see that. He just thinks it’s another day at the office, which is a testament to him and how he’s grown up in the game." -- A's pitching coach Scott Emerson
"I was fortunate enough to be at Stephen Strasburg’s debut. It was somewhat similar, but this is like nothing I’ve ever seen. CC Sabathia was a great player and still is. Francisco Lindor is a great player, I was there for his debut. I’ve seen a lot of great players transition. I’ve never seen anything quite like this." -- Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins
"We were all sitting here watching it, and I had a moment where I was like, ‘Man, is this what was going on when I was having my first at-bat? I had no clue.’ That kid’s going to be a stud. He’s a good player." -- Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant
"He deserves every bit of the attention. I mean, 20 years old, the No. 1 prospect in the game. To do what he has done in the Minor Leagues so quick, he deserves it, and honestly he has handled it really well. The big leagues don't scare him. He has been around it since he was a baby. ... I can't wait to see when he gets hot, because it's going to be pretty impressive." -- Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak.
"I texted him right away and I told him, 'Keep working hard, you deserve it and congrats. You're one of the best players I've ever seen. Just keep doing what you're doing and enjoy the game.' He just answered me 'Thank you. You too, kid. Keep going.' I'd love to play against him and with him in the World Baseball Classic one time." -- White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez
"I was probably just as excited as the entire fan base, to be honest with you, getting Vladdy up here. It’s like having Zion Williamson on your team. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent. Just to have the opportunity to play with him is amazing, to look out there and see him behind me at third base. I think it’s going to give us a huge mental edge." -- Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman
"We're just as excited as you guys are. He's a great player. You can see it by his at-bats. The game kind of comes easy to him. If we can add a bat like that to our lineup, it just makes our club that much better. We're all super excited about it." -- Blue Jays infielder Brandon Drury
"He's a special player. I feel like I played with a lot of good players in the Minor Leagues, and he's far and away the best Minor League hitter. If you asked me last year who's the best hitter you've ever seen, the answer would be him." -- Giants left-hander Travis Bergen
"Man, it has brought that excitement back. It feels like playoff baseball in here. It has been fun. For me, I've never really got to see him play, to be blessed to be able to watch this kid every night do something special. I'm actually looking forward to it." -- Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez
"What I can tell you is he is making it on his own progress, not because of my name. He is creating his own name. He is going to be good." -- Vladimir Guerrero Sr., through an interpreter.
"I would be nervous, I know that for sure. But playing defense and stuff -- I don’t know if it’s because he grew up in the clubhouse, maybe it makes him more relaxed, but he really is really relaxed. That’s pretty good. It’s special to be like that." -- Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (Chisholm - mlb.com - 4/29/19)
May 20, 2019: Vladimir became the Blue Jays' youngest POTW Award winner, breaking the record held by Junior Felix.
July 2019: In his rookie season in the Majors, the 20-year-old phenom will get a chance to share that excitement with all those in attendance in Cleveland for the All-Star Game festivities, when he represents the Blue Jays in his first Home Run Derby. He was also become the youngest participant in the history of the event.
July 8, 2019: When asked about what the world should expect out of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman adjusted his hat, cracked a smile and quickly responded with “history.” “Something special, for sure,” Stroman said. “I witness it every day. I witness his batting practices and they’re incredible. I get to see it daily, but I’m excited for the world to see it.”
The world certainly witnessed history and an unforgettable performance from one of the young stars that baseball has to offer, as Guerrero finished an epic run with 91 total homers but was defeated by Derby champion Pete Alonso, who hit 23 in the final round.
“First of all, you just have to thank God and the fans for all the support,” Guerrero Jr. said after breaking the record. “We gave everyone a good show, and that’s what we wanted. … I feel proud of hitting 91 home runs because I broke the record.”
At 20 years and 114 days, Guerrero Jr. became the youngest participant in the history of the Home Run Derby. But it didn’t take Vlad Jr. much time to set more records with his bat.
En route to beating Oakland’s Matt Chapman in the first round, Guerrero Jr. launched 29 home runs, the most in any round in Derby history, surpassing Josh Hamilton’s 28 home runs in 2008, although that was done in the previous format that changed in ‘15. In the current format, Giancarlo Stanton held the record with 24 in ‘16.
Vlad Jr. then matched his own record in the second round, finishing with another 29. He nearly reached 30, but his last drive of bonus time scraped the left-field wall, falling just short.
Guerrero Jr., however, was matched by his opponent, Dodgers slugger Joc Pederson, who hit a last-second home run to send the matchup into a tiebreaker round. Vlad Jr. added eight more home runs to his total, giving him a total of 66 home runs, surpassing Stanton’s single-Derby record of 61 from ‘16.
Once Pederson matched Guerrero Jr. again in the second tiebreaker, the pair went to a three-swing swing-off, which initially had both sluggers finishing with just one home run on their three swings. In the third tiebreaker, Guerrero Jr. homered on two of his next three swings, which led to some “Let’s go, Vladdy!” chants from the soldout crowd at Progressive Field.
Pederson responded with just one home run, allowing Guerrero Jr. to advance to the Derby final after a historic battle.
As he entered the finals, Guerrero Jr. acknowledged that he was tired after the epic second round, but noted that his offseason workout program, which included taking 1,500 swings on a daily basis with heavy bats, is much tougher than what he had to endure on Monday night.
“I got tired, but that’s not why I lost,” Guerrero Jr. said. “There are no excuses. [Alonso] hit more home runs than me and he won.” Despite not walking away as the champion, Guerrero Jr. broke the record for most home runs in any round (40) and in total (91), led the Derby with 27 home runs with a distance of 440 feet or more, and starred in one of the best battles in Derby history. (Toribio - mlb.com)
- Nickname: “EL K” -- When Guerrero was a baby, he kept making the sound “ka,” which is the the Spanish pronunciation of the letter “K.” One of his uncles quickly coined the nickname “El K”, and it’s stuck ever since.
Sept 23, 2019:Ahead of Monday’s series opener against the Orioles at Rogers Centre, Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. wanted to set the record straight. The 20-year-old slugger felt that comments he made that were shared by Sportsnet's Arash Madani -- "I've never worked out at the gym before; I've never lifted weights before" -- were misinterpreted.
“I just want to clarify what was said the other day,” Guerrero said through team interpreter Hector Lebron. “It was written the wrong way. What I’m trying to say is, in the offseason in the Dominican, I never lifted weights before, but for this season I’m going to have a plan with the team, with [head strength coach] Scotty Weberg and the whole strength and conditioning staff, and that’s going to start in the offseason [and continue] all the way through Spring Training.”
Guerrero wanted to make it clear that the comments in question were strictly about the work that he does in his native Dominican Republic during the offseason months, where he always continues baseball activities and other methods of conditioning, while not strictly lifting weights.
“They wrote that I never lifted weights before,” Guerrero said. “That sounds like 'before' -- never even in the Dominican, the States, with the team, and that wasn’t what I was saying. I was very clear, and I said that I never lifted weights in the offseason in Dominican Republic. I did a lot of other things, conditioning things, but weights at the gym, never did it before.”
Previously completing workouts that involved “a lot of flipping tires, those big tires, a lot of conditioning, a lot of running, throwing [and] hitting,” the rookie infielder intends to take a different approach to his offseason workouts this year, after getting a firsthand glimpse of what a full season in the big leagues can look like as well as the toll it can take on the body.
“I’m going to change the entire program, the plan, because I understand now after being here that you’ve got to maintain all the strength for me to play 162 games,” Guerrero said. “Right now, for example, I don’t feel 100 percent. I’m a little bit tired right now and based on that, I’m not going to change my routine that I did before -- I’m just going to add the weight program plan. I’m going to do all that to come back to Spring Training strong, with added strength, because I want to play 162 games.”
While the young hitter doesn’t have any specific goals for the gym through the offseason and is hoping to make improvements wherever possible, there is one thing he wants to accomplish sooner rather than later.
“I want to get to the point where everybody in the organization thinks that, 'Yes, he can go out there for 162 games,'” Guerrero said.
Guerrero understands that in order to achieve that goal, he also needs to make improvements on the field, and will strategize with the Blue Jays' training staff before the season ends in order to find ways to do that as well.
“I know I’ve made some errors and I need to get better with that,” Guerrero said. “I will sit with [third-base coach] Luis Rivera at the end of the season, we’re going to prepare a good plan. We haven’t done it yet, but we will at the end because definitely I want to keep getting better at third base, but I feel good about it so far. Overall, for me I consider that as being a good season. For these six games left, I just want to keep working hard and give it what I’ve got for my team.” (A Brudnicki - MLB.com - Sspt 24, 2019)
2019 Season: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s rookie season offered a glimpse of his future for the Blue Jays, highlighted by the potential for what could be but also shedding some light on where improvements are necessary for that to come to fruition. Numerically, the 20-year-old third baseman posted a 2.1 WAR per Baseball Reference in 123 games and 464 at-bats. Guerrero hit .272/.339/.433 with 15 home runs, 26 doubles, two triples, 52 runs scored and 69 RBIs. He came out stronger than he finished but impressed along the way.
Guerrero’s body has been a topic of conversation throughout his career, but the man listed at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds had never had it scrutinized more than at the big league level this year, and he felt it. Guerrero understands the room for improvement, and the young slugger's work has already begun.
Making the grades
Describing himself as “thick” in every possible instance as he made his way through the Major League Scouting Bureau’s version of an evaluation, Guerrero noted that he lost more than 25 pounds during his rookie campaign. He believes the work he put in throughout the season will help him as he continues to focus on his conditioning through the offseason.
“I’ve definitely been working very hard during the season,” Guerrero said, switching back and forth between answering in English and gleaning some assistance from team interpreter Hector Lebron. “I’ve been doing everything that I’ve been asked to do. And I learned that in order for me to stay up here for 162 games, I need to keep putting in that work and feel really good, especially during the season.”
Another place where Guerrero will continue to focus his efforts is at the hot corner, where despite giving himself an average present grade he feels he can improve the most.
“Definitely because I know that I can do better than I did,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with the way I did. I’m not satisfied, because I know I can do better, and I’m going to get better. Defensively, since the beginning [of the season] to now, I got a lot better, but I don’t want to stay like that. I need to get better, I want to get better.”
What the scouts say
“He runs better than you’d think he would, he’s a better athlete, but he’s a spectacular bat,” one National League evaluator said. “It’s his hand action, his bat speed -- he’s at another level with all that, so he should be a superstar.
“But if he was in really good shape, he could stay at third base for a while because he’s got really good hands there and doesn’t move badly. He’s got good feet and good first-step quickness, and he has a really good feel for the game. His instincts are very, very good, and he has fun playing.”
While Guerrero admits that some of the most fun he had this season was hitting 91 homers at Cleveland's Progressive Field during the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, the man who hit all of his homers left of centre made sure to mention, “No oppo power,” as he went through his self report. When grading his power, he emphasized that he believed his tool was presently average, but he also knew he had the potential to be among the top power hitters in the game.
Continuing to work his way through the evaluation, the word “explosive” also caught Guerrero’s eye among the running style descriptors, leading him to ask, “What’s the opposite of explosive?” before settling on “heavy feet.” His initial reaction was to keep his future run grade the same as his present grade, before deciding he could get better at that, too.
“I’m basically going to work on everything,” Guerrero said. “Defensively, of course, and of course I’m going to work on my body, too. … This [report] doesn’t tell you that every day that I go out there, I try and learn something new. I’ve learned a lot of things, things late in the game -- how to concentrate and do things late in the game -- like running the bases, and things like that, that’s what I’ve been learning all year.”
And that education will continue to help Guerrero as he utilizes an improved mindset to help him continue the success he has found throughout his life.
“Being prepared, mentally prepared is what got me here,” Guerrero said. “Off the field, I try to always be mentally prepared. I think that’s the key of making it to the big leagues, and it always worked for me in the Minor Leagues, so I just need to keep doing that.” (A Brudnicki - MLB.com - Oct 24, 2019)
|Birth City:||Montreal, QC, Canada|
|Draft:||2015 - Blue Jays - Free agent|
Guerrero has plus-plus bat speed. And he has natural loft in his swing allowing him to hit for power while not compromising making consistent hard contact. He has such stunningly fast hands
Vlady has the prodigious ability to manipulate the barrel and square all types of pitches driving them to all parts of the yard, make him an elite player. He has excellent plate coverage, aided by his hand-eye coordination and plate discipline. His swing is compact yet aggressive. He can barrel up even three-digit velocity. And with superb pitch recognition, he can square any and all off-speed pitches too.
He has humongous raw power. But it’s his incredible bat control, uncanny plate discipline, and lack of holes as a hitter that stand out even more.
He gets a 70 grade for his excellent power and a top of the chart 80 for his hit tool—excellent game-changing, all-star big league hitter. It is not out of the question that Guerrero could develop into an 80 hitter with 80 power. He has a preternatural ability to make hard contact and barrel any type of pitch in any area of the strike zone (Spring, 2019)
Vladimir has impressive bat control, hand strength and pitch recognition. So he can be a bad-ball hitter, though perhaps not as impressively as his dad. In fact, Junior walks more than he strikes out most seasons. He has an excellent command of the strike zone that is rare, indeed.
Most of the younger Guerrero's comps are plays like Kevin Mitchell and Miguel Sano—not his dad. Though he does have his father's high pockets. Another comp: Edwin Encarnacion but with more speed.
Guerrero displays elite hard-hit ability, consistently squaring up pitches and covering the plate well. He shows plus bat speed, natural timing in the box, an understanding of the strike zone and an ability to recognize and track off-speed pitches.
“I’ve been working on my offense,” said Guerrero, “trying to hit the ball to the middle of the field and just be focused and consistent on my good swing.” (Spring, 2017)
The elder Guerrero's willingness to swing at the plate was far from a secret, but Vlad, Jr. learned the hard way to be more disciplined.
"It all started when I'd do batting practice with my dad," Guerrero said. "He threw a low ball; I hit it on the ground and it hit me in the nose. After that, I said, 'I don't want that to happen again, so I'm just going to hit strikes.' Since then, I think I've become a better hitter." (Engel - mlb.com - 3/26/18)
Guerrero swings aggressively, but the stroke itself is compact and efficient. His barrel enters the hitting zone in good position and he stays through the ball extremely well for a young hitter, which helps him drive all types of pitches throughout the strike zone to any part of the field.
Guerrero inherited his father’s hand-eye coordination, seldom missing when he swings. While people joke and marvel at his dad’s proclivity for chasing (and hitting) pitches out of the strike zone, Vladimir Jr. is a supremely disciplined hitter. The way he tracks pitches is advanced. He recognizes pitches immediately out of the pitcher’s hand and routinely works himself into favorable counts by laying off borderline pitches.
Vlad Jr. has the ability to turn around premium velocity or square up breaking balls and change-ups on the sweet spot just as well. (Ben Badler - Baseball America - 8/03/2018)
Over the years, there have been some contentious debates over who should be MLB Pipeline's Minor League Hitter of the Year. In 2018, the conversation took approximately as long as it takes to say "Vladimir Guerrero Jr."
It's easy to run out of superlatives when describing the season him, but here are some highlights for 2018:
• Led the Minors in batting average (.381) • Led the Minors in slugging percentage (.636) • Led the Minors in OPS (1.073) • Set career highs in doubles, home runs, total bases, RBI, average, OBP, SLG, OPS • Has not gone consecutive games without a hit since July 20-21, 2017. (Mayo - mlb.com - 9/5/18)
Jan 2019: There might be no better reflection of the excitement surrounding Guerrero than his Steamer projection, which places him between Aaron Judge and Nolan Arenado among the 20 or so best players by WAR in 2019.
Projections are typically conservative, but that's just how much MLB's top prospect has raked in the Minors. Guerrero's OPS hasn't finished below .800 at any level, and his strikeout rate has never risen above 13.4 percent -- still nearly 10 points below the Major League average in 2018.
- Guerrero was named the #1 hitting prospect by MLB Pipeline for the 2019 season.
Best hitter: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays (80) - ETA: 2019
Guerrero makes it look so easy at the plate, booming balls all over the field with his combination of hand-eye coordination, bat speed, pitch recognition and plate discipline. He's a career .331/.414/.529 hitter with 146 walks and 135 strikeouts in three years as a pro. For sake of comparison, his Hall of Fame father batted .343/.403/.581 with 95 walks and 115 whiffs in his first three pro seasons before reaching the Majors; although Vlad Sr. was two years older than his son at the same stage. (Jim Callis- MLB.com-Jan. 27, 2019)
Jan 28, 2019: Guerrero's offensive upside is off the charts. He possesses any attribute a scout would want in a hitter: bat speed, strength, a swing without holes, hand-eye coordination, advanced pitch recognition, a willingness to use all fields, and the ability to homer to any part of any ballpark. If you were trying to build a perfect offensive prospect, the only change you might make would be to have Guerrero bat lefthanded.
"He doesn't have the body or the tools that Trout or A-Rod or Griffey did, but he's got as good a chance to be a .300 hitter with 30 homers as any of those guys," said one senior executive with an AL club. "He has the physical ability to hit, coupled with the innate instincts to hit. He pretty much can hammer every pitch he sees. "He's as good a looking hitter as I've ever come across in a decade or a generation. Just the physicality of the swing, the power and how direct it is, it's top shelf. He's going to hit."
March 12, 2019: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s strained oblique muscle has led to questions from fans and media about whether there is a conditioning issue with the game's top prospect. Guerrero created a bit of a stir last month when the Blue Jays revised his listed weight to 250 pounds. That's a far cry from his signing weight of approximately 200, and while there's no questioning his bat, there might be questions about other elements of his game.|
The 20-year-old is expected to miss the rest of Spring Training with the oblique injury. He should return early in the year to Triple-A Buffalo, but the door to make the Opening Day roster -- which was never going to happen anyway -- has been officially slammed shut.
"Not concerns," Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro said when asked about possible concerns over conditioning issues. I think we’ve been very consistent from Day One. There’s one tool when it comes to Vladdy’s development that so far outpaces every other aspect of his development. That we’ve got concerns about every other piece of his development, trying to catch that up to his hit tool.
"I talked about Manny Ramirez and that model and challenge we went through in Cleveland a long time ago in the same way. I still feel the same way, it’s a little bit unfair to take a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old and say, ‘We expect you to handle yourself like a veteran, Major League player. We expect you to handle yourself, in every aspect of your game on and off the field, your routines, your preparations, your baserunning, as if it’s as good as your bat.’ We’re trying to develop those things right now with a sense of, 'How do we expedite that, how do we catch those things up?'"
Guerrero might have received one of those reminders when he strained his oblique on a swing. But it's worth noting that even the fittest of ballplayers run into similar issues with obliques. Nobody ever questioned third baseman Brett Lawrie's fitness when he was in Toronto, and yet there were multiple strains. More than a lack of fitness, this specific injury likely can be tied to Guerrero's violent swing. He generates a lot of natural power with his mechanics, but he also swings the bat with so much force that it leaves him susceptible to this type of ailment.
"It’s things that happen, so if that’s what the tests said and that’s what I need to do, I just need to make sure I’m healthy and getting ready to come back," Guerrero said through a translator. "Injuries are a part of baseball and I understand that. So I’ll just be working hard to get back after Spring Training." (G Chisholm - MLB.com - March 12, 2019)
So what makes Vlad Jr. such a special hitter? Well, everything.
For starters, he is the only player since MLB Pipeline and MLB.com began ranking prospects in 2004 to have been ascribed an elite, 80-grade hit tool -- based on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, where 50 is considered Major League average.
Guerrero’s right-handed swing is both explosive and highly efficient, featuring a combination of bat speed, physical strength and off-the-charts barrel control that enables him to be consistently on time with his swing and obliterate any type of pitch to any part of the field. He impacts the baseball with ease, generating deafening contact like few players can.
Beyond the physical components, Guerrero’s approach and capacity for making in-at-bat adjustments are equally impressive. With knowledge of the strike zone and pitch recognition that sets him apart from his free-swinging father, Vlad Jr. seldom expands his zone and rarely strikes out while consistently putting together quality at-bats.
And even though he hit career-high 20 home runs a year ago and has showcased massive, 80-grade power at every stage of his career, Guerrero has only begun to scrape the surface of the power potential that could make him a perennial 35-plus-homer player in the big leagues. (Rosenbaum - mlb.com - 4/24/19)
- May 4, 2019: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. picked up the first RBI of his career, and in a unique twist, it had a connection to his Hall of Fame father. Guerrero scored Justin Smoak from second base with an RBI single during an 8-5 loss to the Rangers, which brought back memories from nine years ago. The first RBI of Smoak's career took place on April 27, 2010, when he was a member of the Rangers. The player who scored on the sacrifice fly? Vladimir Guerrero Sr.
“Baseball is crazy,” Guerrero said through an interpreter after the game. “That was like nine years ago. Smoaky and I are here now playing together. It feels great … I feel very happy with myself about my first RBI. Hopefully there will be many, many to come.” (G Chisholm - MLB.com - May 5, 2019)
- May 14, 2019: Guerrero (20 years, 59 days) became the third-youngest player in league history to hit his first two career homers in the same game, according to Stats By STATS. He trails only Brian McCall (19 years, 248 days in 1962) and Manny Machado (20 years, 35 days in 2012) on that list.
The only active players who registered a multi-homer game at a younger age than Guerrero are Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Machado, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Guerrero also made Blue Jays history by becoming the youngest Blue Jays player to hit a home run.
May 20, 2019: Vlad Jr. was named American League Player of the Week. He also becomes the Blue Jays' youngest POTW Award winner, breaking the record held by Junior Felix. Vlad Jr. hit .333 with a 1.321 OPS for the week.
- July 2, 2019: Typically, sound travels in a wave, a disturbance in a medium made up of the vibrations of particles carrying energy from one point to another without direct contact between the two points.
When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finds a pitch with the barrel of his bat, it makes a sound like no other, similarly carrying the immeasurable amount of energy behind his swing through the ball, and occasionally right into the stands.
Ahead of the Blue Jays’ series opener against the Red Sox, Guerrero’s bat made that sound over and over again, as the 20-year-old slugger took an early round of batting practice in Home Run Derby-like conditions in anticipation of the All-Star event.
Team interpreter Hector Lebron timed the anticipatory round and tracked when each ball landed before another pitch could be thrown. The cage was removed from home plate, a catcher was behind the dish and Toronto’s Major League coach John Schneider got his own practice in throwing to Guerrero before the two team up again at the Derby.
July 20, 2019: Guerrero hit a 441-foot grand slam to left-centr field at Comerica Park, his first grand slam in the majors, and it probably won't be the last.
- Oct 2019: “Vlad Jr is the best hitter the Blue Jays have; he’s so natural,” one professional scout said. “He was really chasing sliders a lot, particularly behind in counts at the end of the season, but he reminds me of Miggy [Cabrera], and he’s going to hit for average and power.
“He’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat."
Guerrero's ample lower half, thickness and generally mature body might limit him to first base. Or maybe not. Vladimir can also play some third base.
Vladimir has a 60 arm, but only a 40 for his fielding. But he s still improving. Guerrero worked diligently to improve his defense in 2018—especially his footwork and his angles to the ball, but he remains a large, stocky player with a lack of first-step quickness that inhibits his range. At some point, he might have to move to first base or possibly DH. Wherever he plays, his offensive production will make him an elite player.
Like his father, Guerrero has an electric arm, but he laughs when teammate Yeltsin Gudino translates a question asking who has the better arm in the family. In June, 2017, Vladimir Sr. threw out the first pitch before Lansing’s game on Father’s Day against West Michigan, caught by his son.
“Well, right now, I think I have the better arm. But when he was playing, he had a pretty good one,” Junior said with a grin. “We’re working in the offseason—I’ve been doing the same exercises he did during his career. If anything, I can play out there and move to the outfield and hope to have the same arm as my dad.” Family ties in baseball are funny. Bloodlines are not a guarantee for success. See Pete Rose Jr. or Dale Berra. Yet, sometimes, they are a sign of greater things to come. See Barry Bonds or Ken Griffey Jr.
- Guerrero Jr. played the hot corner during instructional league, working regularly on his defense with Mike Mordecai, the former infielder who is now the club’s coordinator of instruction, and infield coach Danny Solano.
“He looks good there,” said Blue Jays interim general manager Tony LaCava, who oversaw the farm system in 2015. “He’s got plus arm strength and moves around well.”
Vladimir displays good hands at third base.
His stocky build, with some less-than-ideal weight, leads some evaluators to project a move to first base if his actions stiffen as he matures. He does have surprising athleticism, though, with a quick first step and passable footwork around the bag.
Defense was something Guerrero never focused on much as an amateur. But moving from third base to the outfield has inspired him to work harder than he ever has on the other side of the game, defense. He has improved his short-area quickness and arm strength the most. If he keeps working on his defense, he should have average range.
And his footwork is good, allowing Vlady to make routine plays reliably.
Guerrero's thickening body has scouts projecting a move to first base. He has the soft hands, athleticism and footwork to be an average defender there.
But Vladimir worked on his defensive footwork and range at third base, during winter ball in the Dominican before 2018 spring training.
But Vlad Jr. is trying to make a go of it at third base. And though he inherited his father's howitzer arm, the rest of his defense is shaky. In the same game he will rush a throw to first base and toss wide of second base on a potential double play, and he'll also make a nice, difficult charging play on a soft grounder up the line. The tools, while not developed, are there.
The instincts, vision, hands and arm strength translate to a solid defender at 3rd base. (Sports Illustrated - 6/04/2018)
Guerrero’s defense isn’t ready yet, but it’s moving in the right direction. He’s in a race against time pulling at him from both directions, because he needs more time to improve his hands, footwork and other technical aspects of his defense, yet due to his size, he might physically outgrow the position at some point. Guerrero is a big man, but thus far he has maintained his conditioning and worked hard at his agility.
He’s not a natural defender at third base. His first-step quickness and lateral range are below-average, but he has shown two things that work well for him at the position. One is his arm, which has improved since signing and plays better in the infield than it did from the outfield. The other is his hand-eye coordination, which is obvious at the plate but translates into the field as well. His coordination and reactions off the bat help him charging in on slow rollers and making the off-balance throw. (Ben Badler - Baseball America - 8/03/2018)
Vlad Jr. is working on angles to his glove side. And he works on slow rollers. He works at it every day. The cool thing about him is that he comes to the yard with smile on every day, ready to work.
Guerrero faces questions about where he will wind up defensively. He signed as an outfielder before shifting to third base as a pro. He shows an above-average arm but his range and ability to make plays on slow rollers are limited.
Staying at the hot corner is not out of the question, but Guerrero will have to work hard to maintain his large frame if he wants to avoid a move to first base.
- Vladimir has improved his running grade on the 20-80 scouting scale from a 35 to a present 45, which is near big league average.
June 7, 2018: Guerrero Jr. was placed on the 7-day DL with Double-A New Hampshire as he continues to undergo evaluations following a lower body injury sustained during a game against Akron.
June 11-July 17, 2018: Vlad suffered a strained patellar tendon in his left knee and went on the D.L.
- March 10, 2019: Guerrero Jr. is expected to miss the next three weeks, after he was diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain of his left oblique muscle.
- Aug 17, 2019: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was removed from the afternoon’s 4-3 loss to the Mariners at Rogers Centre following the second inning. The Blue Jays announced that Guerrero is dealing with left knee discomfort and he will undergo further testing.
“He felt a little tweak in his knee, so we took him out just in case,” said manager Charlie Montoyo after the game. “He’s going to get an MRI to make sure he’s fine, so I’ll know more about it tomorrow.”
This is the same knee that gave Guerrero trouble in 2018, when he missed nearly a month and a half of the Double-A season with a strained patellar tendon. Montoyo didn’t have a chance to see Guerrero immediately after the game, but described these initial steps as precautions.