One of the neat aspects of college and professional sports is there are always new stars breaking the surface, demanding you pay attention to them. It’s the circle of life thing.
We can think of a few right now. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in college football. Duke’s Zion Williamson in college basketball. Pat Mahomes in pro football. Fernando Tatis, Jr., in pro baseball.
Well, on Friday, one the most highly regarded talents in Major League Baseball will make his debut when the Toronto Blue Jays greet Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
“It’s going to be a great moment. I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told ESPN. “We have been talking about this for a long time, and it’s just so exciting that the moment is finally here.”
The Blue Jays have been waiting a long time for this. They signed him when he was 16, offering a tidy $3.9 million bonus to secure him. Since then, Guerrero, a 20-year-old third baseman, has simply crushed the ball at every level of the minor leagues.
People have been watching him since his father, Vladimir Guerrero, Sr., is an MLB Hall of Fame player. But his dad certainly didn’t have this much hype – or plate discipline – when he debuted with the Montreal Expos in 1996.
“I am so happy. This was such an important moment, not only for the city of Toronto and for the Toronto Blue Jays but for our entire baseball community, that the No. 1 prospect in baseball will debut Friday,” Montoya said. “He is so talented, that the sky is the limit for that young kid. In my case, personally, I am just excited to see him play every day and see what he can do.”
Even better for the Blue Jays is the christening will take place at home when they open a series against the Oakland A’s. Mike Fiers will be the answer to the trivia question: Who was the first pitcher to face Vlad, Jr?
Maybe their fans will even forget that unfortunate Game 7 for the Maple Leafs this week in Boston.
How good is this kid? He hit .381 with 20 homers and 78 RBIs in 95 games at four levels of the Blue Jays’ Minor League system. He’s been incubating in Triple A Buffalo, hitting .376 with three homeruns and eight RBIs in eight games.
“You don’t often get the combination of aggressiveness and strike zone discipline, power and contact ability,” Blue Jays minor leaguer Bo Bichette, the son of a former major leaguer (Dante), told The Athletic. “He really just has it all. You just don’t see that very often, if ever, honestly. Just he has every single ability and he’s not just good at them – he’s great at every single part of the game offensively. That’s what makes him so good.”
The only reason he’s not already in the Majors is he suffered a strained oblique muscle (see Aaron Judge) that sidelined him most of spring training. He hit a homer on Wednesday, the first time he’s been able to play three straight days. So now he’s ready to go.
“The great thing about this kid is that he’s so humble, he’s so unique,” Montoyo said. “He acts and plays like he’s been in the big leagues for a long time, and it will be an easy transition for him. … Hopefully, he becomes what everybody thinks he’s going to become. That’s going to be good for all of us. The city of Toronto, the Blue Jays, the organization.”
Since its doubtful Guerrero ever sees the Minors again unless he’s rehabbing an injury, let’s review the damage he did making it all seem like the Little League. His slash line .331/.413/.531 was accented by 44 homers over 288 games.
The Blue Jays have been planning for this for a very long time and it appears third baseman Brandon Drury will move to second to make room for the kid.
“I got to see a little bit of him when I was down in Florida,” Blue Jays starter Clay Buchholz said. “He’s pretty special. It’s fun to watch him in the box. I actually pitched to him a couple of times and he definitely hit a hard ball off me. I think it’s going to be good.
“I told him that his dad was the first hit that I gave up in the big leagues. It’s pretty cool to be around the son of a guy that got the first hit off me in the big leagues. I think everybody is looking forward to it.”