Is there any way Vladimir Guerrero Jr. fails?
A picture circulating on social media on Wednesday evening has gained traction before. On the right stands a baseball Hall of Famer in a Montreal Expos jersey. That’s Vladimir Guerrero, one of the greatest right fielders to ever play the game.
On the left, one of the most adorable small children to ever don a matching Expos jersey. That’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Since the earliest moments of Vladdy Jr.’s life, he’s been standing on big league fields, occasionally accepting an ovation with a royal blue batting helmet.
¡Hijo mío! El país que te vio pequeño ahora te verá convertirte en un grande.
Trabajando duro todo se puede. ¡Me llenas de orgullo Negro!
Te amo! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/5Ariabvkoq
— Vladimir Guerrero (@VladGuerrero27) April 25, 2019
Guerrero Jr.’s impending promotion to the major leagues was announced on Wednesday night, and he’s expected to make his MLB debut on Friday for the Toronto Blue Jays. There, he’ll also possess a blue batting helmet, just waiting to be raised to the crowd’s cheers. A consensus top-two prospect in baseball, Guerrero Jr. is regarded as one of the best young hitters in recent history. But the bigger the expectation, the bigger the potential to disappoint. The thing about Guerrero Jr., though, is that everything about him, from the genes — Hall of Fame — to the numbers — a .331 minor league hitter — to his baseball intelligence — by all reports, top notch — is made to succeed.
Some of the most highly regarded prospects to ever play the game have failed because they struck out too much. Brandon Wood, the last top-10 prospect to make his big league debut on April 26, might be the poster child for that. Strikeouts doomed his big league career before it could get off the ground, despite displaying huge power in the minor leagues. Guerrero Jr., though, has only struck out in 13 percent of his minors at-bats, better than average. So that shouldn’t be his undoing.
What about velocity? Surely, big league fastballs in an era where players throw harder than ever could ruin Guerrero Jr., right? A recent anecdote in a story at The Athletic might say otherwise. An 18-year old Guerrero was set to face a closer throwing 97 miles per hour with the game on the line. He fouled off one fastball, took another, then jumped all over a slider and hit it “20,000 feet,” per his manager’s hyperbole. Patience and intelligence at the dish overcame any issues with velocity (that Guerrero Jr. really doesn’t have anyway).
Frankly, Guerrero Jr. just has the right skillset to be bust-proof. Before the season, Baseball America said that Guerrero Jr. could be a superstar in the mold of Manny Ramirez. Ramirez ranks as one of the best right-handed bats of all time, and while it seemed he was a “see ball, hit ball” type of player, there are many anecdotes out there about how he’d set pitchers up just to take the pitch he wanted where he wanted to hit it. The slider example above might prove Guerrero Jr. to have the same ability.
On Wednesday afternoon, Guerrero Jr. played in what might’ve been his last minor league game in a while and homered at Syracuse. He took a pitch away and hit a line-drive laser to right-center field for a home run. His Buffalo manager, Bobby Meacham, told The Canadian Press that he thought Guerrero could’ve been in the big leagues two years ago. His home run Wednesday probably didn’t accelerate a timeline that was surely coming, but it certainly showed just how impressive Guerrero Jr.’s hitting ability is.
— Billy Heyen (@Wheyen3) April 24, 2019
Guerrero Jr. has homered in Canada before. Playing in a preseason exhibition last year, he went deep in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium to walk-off a ball game. Friday, Guerrero’s expected debut, the Rogers Centre in Toronto will surely be rocking with excitement for the kid that all of baseball has been waiting to see in a regular season game on a big league diamond.
Baseball’s a funny game. There’s a chance even a hitter as good as Guerrero Jr. gets off to a slow start. Maybe an at-times shaky Toronto lineup won’t offer him enough protection. Maybe he’ll press early on and fail to wait for his pitch.
But Guerrero Jr. is too good. Eventually, he’ll start hitting, just as he has his whole life, and he won’t stop. J.P. Arencibia, a former Blue Jays catcher, weighed in on Twitter after the call-up. Five of his words stood out: “he will have a HOF career.” That’s quite the goal.
If he reached it, though, Guerrero Jr. would be able to join his father on another large stage in front of an adoring crowd, not too far south from Montreal.