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. CLASS="highlight">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. CLASS="highlight"> Here's how they stack up:
Vlad Sr: . CLASS="highlight">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. CLASS="highlight"> to prove that he has a flair for the dramatic. CLASS="highlight"> Guerrero sparked a late rally with a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth for the first hit of his Major League career. CLASS="highlight"> 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. CLASS="highlight"> 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. CLASS="highlight"> 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. CLASS="highlight"> “That’s how he plays. CLASS="highlight"> I figured he would be. CLASS="highlight"> I was more nervous than he was. CLASS="highlight"> I can’t imagine handling all of that pressure, all of this press. CLASS="highlight"> He is who he is. CLASS="highlight"> He’s comfortable, relaxed and he enjoyed the game. CLASS="highlight">” (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. ... CLASS="highlight"> I can't wait to see when he gets hot, because it's going to be pretty impressive. CLASS="highlight">" -- Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak. CLASS="highlight">
"I texted him right away and I told him, 'Keep working hard, you deserve it and congrats. CLASS="highlight"> You're one of the best players I've ever seen. CLASS="highlight"> Just keep doing what you're doing and enjoy the game. CLASS="highlight">' He just answered me 'Thank you. CLASS="highlight"> You too, kid. CLASS="highlight"> Keep going. CLASS="highlight">' I'd love to play against him and with him in the World Baseball Classic one time. CLASS="highlight">" -- 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. CLASS="highlight"> It’s like having Zion Williamson on your team. CLASS="highlight"> It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent. CLASS="highlight"> Just to have the opportunity to play with him is amazing, to look out there and see him behind me at third base. CLASS="highlight"> I think it’s going to give us a huge mental edge. CLASS="highlight">" -- Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman
"We're just as excited as you guys are. CLASS="highlight"> He's a great player. CLASS="highlight"> You can see it by his at-bats. CLASS="highlight"> The game kind of comes easy to him. CLASS="highlight"> If we can add a bat like that to our lineup, it just makes our club that much better. CLASS="highlight"> We're all super excited about it. CLASS="highlight">" -- Blue Jays infielder Brandon Drury
"He's a special player. CLASS="highlight"> 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. CLASS="highlight"> If you asked me last year who's the best hitter you've ever seen, the answer would be him. CLASS="highlight">" -- Giants left-hander Travis Bergen
"Man, it has brought that excitement back. CLASS="highlight"> It feels like playoff baseball in here. CLASS="highlight"> It has been fun. CLASS="highlight"> 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. CLASS="highlight"> I'm actually looking forward to it. CLASS="highlight">" -- Blue Jays starter Aaron Sanchez
"What I can tell you is he is making it on his own progress, not because of my name. CLASS="highlight"> He is creating his own name. CLASS="highlight"> He is going to be good. CLASS="highlight">" -- Vladimir Guerrero Sr. CLASS="highlight">, through an interpreter.
"I would be nervous, I know that for sure. CLASS="highlight"> 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. CLASS="highlight"> That’s pretty good. CLASS="highlight"> It’s special to be like that. CLASS="highlight">" -- 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.