Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s emergence coming at right time

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats during the first inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Expectations for Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. were so lofty that he could be forgiven for falling short of them.

The breakout season has been getting better and better for Guerrero Jr. as he continues to thrill Blue Jays fans on a daily basis.

Another stellar game that saw Vladdy reach base in four of five plate appearances has put him into the realm of superstardom.

"“He’s Vladdy and that’s what we expected. That’s who we’re looking for,” said Blue Jays first baseman Rowdy Tellez, to The Athletic. “This is the guy that all the hype was about, and he’s going to be one of the best players in baseball for a very long time.”"

The former number one prospect in all of baseball has had two solid seasons to start his major league career but had not hit the level that his buzz would suggest.

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Perhaps it is unfair to expect greatness from a 20-year-old even as he raked in the minor leagues. The step up to the majors is the biggest of them all.

In his 2019 rookie campaign, Guerrero hit .272 with 15 home runs and 69 runs batted in. He followed that up in last year’s pandemic shortened season with a .262 average to go along with nine dingers and 33 RBI over 60 games.

These were above league average numbers, which is a net positive to the team but paled in comparison to some of the other young stars in the league and on the Blue Jays.

Vladdy ranked 38th in Wins Above Replacement among rookies in the 2019 season, behind baseball luminaries such as Fernando Tatis Jr. and his own teammates in Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

The 2020 season saw Guerrero’s WAR dip to 0.2, which was 10th among Blue Jays hitters. An offseason commitment to fitness and healthy eating saw the slugger shed 42 pounds when he showed up for camp.

Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is sending a message to opponents

The focus on his health is paying massive dividends for Guerrero and the team so far in the 2021 season. Among all MLB hitters, he is third in WAR, trailing only Ronald Acuna Jr. and Mike Trout.

Guerrero has been on base in all 18 games for the Jays to start the season. His plate discipline has become outstanding with a walk rate of 18.4 per cent and strikeout rate of 14.5 per cent.

He leads all of baseball with a .513 on-base-percentage while going deep four times. His ‘messianic bat’, as FanGraphs put it in his prospect report, is alive and well.

The transition from third base to first has also been a bright spot for the Blue Jays this season. Guerrero is learning on the fly but looks more and more comfortable with each passing game.

In 111 innings at first base, Guerrero has yet to commit an error. While the rest of the infield has had some struggles defensively, Vlad has been steady at first.

There is no ceiling on how good Guerrero can be at the plate and with more time at first he can become an even bigger asset in the field. Looks like all of the hype was warranted after all.

Related Story. Three things that must happen for the Blue Jays to win the 2021 World Series. light

What do you think of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s season so far? What heights can the Toronto Blue Jays’ slugger hit in the future? Let us know in the comments below.