The anticipation is over; top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will make his MLB debut on Friday for the Toronto Blue Jays in a home matchup versus the Athletics. Son of Vladimir Guerrero Sr., a Hall of Famer as well, expectations will be incredibly high on the young Guerrero to lead the Blue Jays’ rebuild. Will he live up to these expectations. Not only will he meet them, but he should easily exceed them. The ultimate result? A second Guerrero in the Hall of Fame.
As a hitter, Guerrero Jr. is flawless. He was given the first ever 80 hit tool grade by MLB Pipeline, who claims that Guerrero Jr. is “on his way to becoming one of the most premium hitters”. Fangraphs also graded his raw power as a perfect 80/80, and with incredible mechanics, especially with his lower half, that power will translate to the games. The hit tool and the power would be enough to make Guerrero Jr. an elite talent, but his value as a hitter goes beyond that. The 20-year-old rarely strikes out and has superb plate discipline, which shows with his 10.4% walk rate compared to his 7% walk rate during 38 games in Triple-A. During that time, he posted a 1.045 OPS, a .280 isolated power (ISO), a 181 weighted-runs-created-plus (wrc+), despite having a reasonable batting average balls in play of .322; this elite production signifies his unworldly talent. Usually, the main adjustment for prospects advancing to the major league level is cutting down strikeouts, as demonstrated by the long period of time it has taken Yoan Moncada to start to reach his potential. However, since Guerrero Jr. has been elite in this department for his entire Minor League career, there will be no period of adjustment. A better version of Juan Soto seems like an accurate first-year comparison. Considering Soto had a .923 OPS last season, Guerrero Jr.’s OPS should easily eclipse 1.000 on his way to being the unanimous choice for AL Rookie of the Year.
Now, Guerrero Jr. is not a flawless prospect. At 6’1” and 250 pounds, there are legitimate concerns that Guerrero Jr. won’t be able to hold up at third base, and may be a long time designated hitter. These concerns aren’t alleviated by the fact that MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs gave him below average grades as a fielder. However, Guerrero Jr’s strong arm and progress defensively should make serviceable in the field, and there’s definitely room to grow. Remember, he is just 20-years-old; he should improve and develop as a defender over time. Even if he can be an average defender, which is well within range, Guerrero Jr.’s elite capability offensively give him the potential to be a consistent 8-10 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) player, which would make him an annual MVP candidate.
Plus, there’s a couple of other factors that should increase Guerrero Jr.’s popularity even further. For starters, he’ll be the face of Toronto as he tries to lead the Blue Jays back to the glory they enjoyed while reaching the ALCS in 2015 and 2016. With middle infield prospect Bo Bichette, catcher Danny Jansen, and pitching prospects Nate Pearson and Eric Pardinho in the fold amongst some of Toronto’s other young contributors (Rowdy Tellez, Jordan Groshans, Billy McKinney, Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton), Guerrero Jr. should have enough supporting talent to make constant playoff pushes. If the rebuild doesn’t pan out, then he’ll still be a free agent at age 26. We just saw Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sign for $300M+, and if the salary cap continues to expand, he’ll be in line for a $400M contract with Toronto or another team. Therefore, not only will Guerrero Jr. be a superstar in terms of production, but he should be one of baseball’s most marketable players as well.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is special; he looks to be on his way to the Hall of Fame and should be even better than his dad was. He’s the most flawless prospect of all times in terms of offensive ability, and if he keeps his weight and defense in check, he’ll be a consistent MVP candidate. The sky is the limit for the 20-year-old; April 26th will go down as “Vlad Day”, the day a legend was born.