Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects – #1 Vladimir Guerrero Jr

VladJr
Clutchlings Photo

It takes an average Major League fastball about 400 milliseconds to reach home plate, give or take some variables. It takes about 100 ms for the brain to process the pitch coming out of the Pitcher’s hand, and another 175 ms for the brain to send the message to the body to swing, and for the swing to be completed.  That gives the hitter about 125 ms to process a great deal of information – where the pitch is headed, and from its spin, what type of pitch it is.  To put it into perspective, it takes about  300-400 ms to blink.  Literally, in less than the wink of an eye, elite hitters can judge whether or not to swing, where to swing, and to be able to get their bat around in time to meet the ball.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr, after only two minor league seasons, has proven that he has among the best visual acuity in all of baseball.  This is not hyperbole – unlike his soon-to-be Hall of Famer Dad, who was famous for hitting pitches in and out of every quadrant of the strike zone, Junior is a master at pitch recognition, and has better walk rates than Joey Votto posted at a similar age.  The power has really yet to manifest itself (although 13 round trippers in a pair of Pitchers’ leagues is nothing to sneer at), but that’s expected to develop.  In two minor league seasons, Guerrero has walked more than he’s struck out, and he’s never gone more than 11 at bats without a hit.  The Braves’ Ronald Acuna may be more advanced at this point, but Guerrero is arguably the best prospect in a ll of baseball.

Vladdy’s first Midwest League Home Run showed both his bat speed and his opposite field pop:

There are so many scouting reports to choose from, it’s hard to settle on a few, but here are the best we’ve seen:

From Matt Powers of minorleagueball.com:

When he swings he’s aggressive, showing the big bat speed you hear about and looking to hit it hard. He’s got a great feel for contact and situations- he’s not afraid to shorten his swing when he’s got two strikes against him and will look to put the ball in play. He’s got big power, but it’s still coming in games- to be expected as an 18 year old going up against grown men. I saw enough bat speed, pitch recognition, plate coverage, and bat to ball ability to easily project a 60 hit tool on him, if not a 65.

Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America:

Guerrero’s bat-to-ball skills are without peer. He doesn’t have his father’s gangly physique and long arms but still shows the ability to cover the plate. Thanks to his plus bat speed and the strength from his stocky build, Guerrero has at least plus power, with some scouts not shying from plus-plus grades on that tool. His hit tool is a plus weapon, at least the equal of his power. He has been compared with Edwin Encarnacion for his potential offensive impact.

Benjamin Chase of calltothepen.com:

The muscle build in the lower half of Guerrero is incredible, and it shines through in his power. He absolutely tattoos balls, even those he hits on the ground. One ball in one of the games I watched nearly took off the glove of the shortstop in the hole.

While it’s a present 60 power, I could absolutely see a legit 70-75 future grade on Guerrero’s power with his build and easy access to that power in his swing. I’m placing a 65 currently for a “hedge” on present vs. future.

Blue Jays Assistant General Manager Andrew Tinnish, who runs the club’s international operations, and headed up the negotiations that landed the prize of the 2015 IFA crop, was asked what impresses him the most about Guerrero:

   (It’s) the overall plate discipline…..not only does he control the strike zone, but to control it and do damage at his age…..that’s really hard to find.

On the bases, Guerrero will not be confused with Lou Brock.  At the same time, he gets out of the box well, and shows his high baseball IQ on the basepaths, seeming to know when and how to get an extra base.  His speed will not improve with age, of course, but it’s hard to see him becoming a base clogger until later in his career.

The question, of course, is Jr’s ultimate position.  At 3rd Base, he shows great instincts on batted balls and a plus arm, but his range is suspect.  He seems to get to a fair number of balls, but on ones toward the outer edges of his range, Guerrero often appears to be just a step late.  While he’s made huge strides with refining his physique and improving his agility with the High Performance group, it seems likely that he moves across the diamond one day, likely the year after next.  But that scarcely will matter because of that bat.   Vladdy Jr profiles as a middle-of-the-order, impact – dare we say generational? – bat.

In his first full season (at an age where stateside kids are either beginning their pro careers in rookie ball, or getting ready to head off to college), Guerrero did tire a bit as the season progressed, but hit .385/.483/.646 in August, and led Dunedin to a Florida State League co-championship.  He’s come such a long way that many forget that he won’t turn 19 until next spring training.  And while Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro said this fall that if the team found itself in need of a corner IF bat and in the midst of a pennant race next summer, Guerrero could be placed on the 40-man roster and summoned to the big leagues, that seems like a remote possibility.  His performance this spring will determine if he begins the year in New Hampshire or spends another half season with Dunedin, but one thing is certain:  Guerrero’s major league debut is getting closer and closer.  He will be worth the wait.

 

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