Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Vladimir Guerrero Ramos
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 220 lb.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the son of Vladimir Guerrero. Like his father, he displayed tremendous hitting ability at a young age, wowing Toronto Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos when he saw him take batting practice as a 14-year-old. As soon as he became eligible to sign a professional contract, the Blue Jays grabbed him on July 2, 2015, giving him a $3.9 million signing bonus; Ismael Cruz was the scout. The Jays traded one of their top minor league pitching prospects, Chase De Jong, and another future major leaguer in Tim Locastro, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in order to secure additional bonus pool money needed to sign the young Vlad. They were also willing to incur a penalty of $1 million for going over their international bonus allowance in order to ensure he did not get away. He was an outfielder when he was signed, but the Jays decided to move him to third base.
He began his professional career in 2016 with the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League. It did not take him long to hit his first pro homer, as it came in his second game, on June 23rd, with his father in attendance. In 62 games, he hit .271/.359/.449 with 8 homers and 46 RBIs, all that despite being 3 1/2 years younger than the average player in the league. He was named a member of the World team for the 2017 Futures Game and was in fact the youngest player in the game. He played the entire game after starting at DH for the World team, going 2 for 4 with a pair of runs scored. He hit .316 with 7 homers and 45 RBIs in 71 games for the Lansing Lugnuts in the first half of 2017, then was promoted to the Advanced Class A Dunedin Blue Jays to coincide with his appearance in the Futures Game. He played 48 games for Dunedin, hitting .333 with 7 homers and 31 RBIs to finish the season with a combined line of .323/.425/.485 in 119 games, with 84 runs, 28 doubles, 13 homers and 76 RBIs. After the season, he joined the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican League.
Heading into 2018, Guerrero was named the #3 prospect in baseball by mlb.com, behind only Shohei Ohtani (who already had a number of top-level professional seasons under his belt in Japan) and Ronald Acuna. During that round of evaluation, he became the first prospect ever to be assigned a perfect grade of 80 for hitting ability; others had received the grade for their power, speed, defense, or for a specific pitch. He returned to his father's old stomping grounds at Stade Olympique in his birth city of Montréal, QC to play in the now traditional two-game exhibition series that marks the end of the Jays' spring training. He had a signature moment on March 27th as he homered off Jack Flaherty of the St. Louis Cardinals to break a scoreless tie with two outs in the 9th inning. On May 7th, playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, he homered twice and drove in five runs in a game, but really wowed onlookers by hitting a ball off a batting tee over the fence in a pre-game segment taped for the MLB Network. He was off to a blazing start in AA, hitting .431 and slugging .713 after 45 games. His dream season was interrupted on June 7th when he had to go on the disabled list with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee, forcing him to miss a month of action. He was batting .407 at the time of the injury. He returned on a rehabilitation assignment at the end of July, then was promoted to the AAA Buffalo Bisons on July 31st. The International League turned out not to be any more of a challenge than previous levels, as in his first 8 games with the Bisons, he hit .462 with 2 homers and 8 walks (against just one K). In his next two games, he homered as well to make it four straight contests with a long ball. His strong start made it possible that he could accomplish a very rare feat: hitting .400 over a full season in a U.S.-based minor league, something last accomplished by Aaron Pointer in 1961 (a few players had done it since in short-season leagues, most notably Gary Redus who hit .462 in the Pioneer League in 1978). He finished his stint in Buffalo at .336 in 30 games, giving him a combined average of .381 with four different teams, counting two brief rehabilitation assignments. He hit 29 doubles and 20 homers in 95 games, with 67 runs and 78 RBIs. He led the minor leagues in average, slugging percentage (.636) and OPS (1.073). On September 4th, he was named the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year and a couple of days later obtained the same honor from Baseball America.
After starring in the Arizona Fall League in 2018, he headed into 2019 as the clear #1 prospect in baseball, a status confirmed by various publications. Better than that, in addition to repeating his perfect score for hitting ability, he also ranked #1 on MLB's list for power, the first time a prospect had ever finished first in two distinct scouting categories. His combined score for the two measurements also shattered any previous record. Observers ranked him with the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Mike Trout and Ken Griffey Jr. as the greatest prospect ever - very exclusive company. Before the debate on whether he should start the year in Toronto or wait a few weeks in AAA at the behest of the team in order to set his arbitration clock back by a year, he suffered a left oblique strain in a Grapefruit League game on March 8th, preventing him from playing for an expected three weeks, at which point he would need some rehabilitation time to be ready for the Show, with 15 days spent in the minors being enough to alleviate any risk of early eligibility for arbitration. As soon as he was healthy, he resumed his job of battering minor league pitching, hitting .267 in 4 rehab games at Dunedin, and then .381 with 2 homers over his first 6 games with Buffalo. By April 23rd, it was clear his major league debut was imminent and indeed, the next day, the Blue Jays called him up, announcing that his debut would take place on April 26th. Wearing his father's iconic number 27 and facing the Oakland Athletics at the Rogers Centre, he started at third base and batted fifth. He made outs in his first three at-bats, although that included a couple of balls lifted to the warning track, then he came up a fourth time to lead off the 9th with the score tied at 2-2 against Yusmeiro Petit. He lined a double down the first base line, then was replaced by pinch runner Alen Hanson, who came in to score the winning run when Brandon Drury, who had been moved from third base to second by Vlad's arrival, hit a walk-off homer to give Toronto a storybook 4-2 win. After a slow start, he finally hit his first career homer on May 14th, taking Nick Vincent of the San Francisco Giants deep in the 1st inning at Oracle Park. He then added a second homer in the 7th inning, a three-run blast off Reyes Moronta, to lead Toronto to a 7-3 win. Both homers were tape measure shots, as the first traveled 432 feet to dead center, and the second went even further, at 452 feet. He was the youngest player in franchise history to hit a home run, eclipsing future basketball star Danny Ainge. A few days earlier, on May 11th he had shown signs of breaking out of his slump when he reached base all four times he went to bat in a loss to the Chicago White Sox, with a pair of singles and two walks. His 1st-inning hit in that game was measured at 118 mph coming off his bat, the hardest-hit ball by any Blue Jays player since the start of the Statcast era. He added two more homers before the end of the week, including a two-run shot that broke a 1-1 tie in the 8th inning against Kelvin Herrera of the White Sox on May 19th; in that same game, he hit another rocket, timed at 112 mph, that almost decapitated pitcher Reynaldo Lopez but still resulted in an out, giving him two of the ten hardest-hit balls by anyone in the majors that season. He earned American League Player of the Week honors. On June 5th, he hit a three-run homer off Zack Britton of the New York Yankees in the bottom of the 8th inning to turn a 7-6 deficit into a 9-7 lead; the Jays then added a couple of insurance runs on back-to-back long balls by Randal Grichuk and Brandon Drury later in the inning to take a dramatic 11-7 win. On June 14th, he was hit on the left hand by a fastball thrown by Gerrit Cole of the Houston Astros in the 1st inning. He had to leave the game, but x-rays came back negative.
In spite of having hit just 8 homers until that point, he was selected to take part in the Home Run Derby on July 8th at Cleveland, OH's Progressive Field, and did he ever put on a show! He hit a record 29 homers in the first round, then 40 in an epic match-up with Joc Pederson in the second round that required no less than three tie-breakers, before falling just one short of eventual winner Pete Alonso in the final round, 23 to 22. His total of 91 was miles ahead of what anyone had ever hit at the event, and he also hit the longest homer of the night, a mighty 488-foot blast off the scoreboard. He hit his first career grand slam on July 20th, against Gregory Soto of the Detroit Tigers in a 7-5 win. Ten days later, he added another grand slam, this one off Josh Staumont of the Kansas City Royals in a 9-2 win on July 30th. He continued his hot streak two days later when he homered twice, doubled and drove in 4 runs in an 11-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles. On August 10th, his first career triple off Adam Ottavino drove in two runs that made the difference in a 5-4 Blue Jays win over the Yankees. He finished the season at .272 in 123 games, with 26 doubles, 15 homers and 69 RBIs. He was named to the 2019 Topps All-Star Rookie Team as the third baseman.
In early July 2020, as training camp was resuming following the long interruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, manager Charlie Montoyo announced that Guerrero would start playing first base, and that he would spend most of his time in the upcoming season there and at DH. The idea was to take him away from a position where he was a below-average defender to have him focus mainly on his bread-and-butter going forward, his hitting. That said, he still had to learn a new position and made some quite obvious mistakes during the season, although he improved markedly as he got more experience. He wasn't there full time, as he was also the DH for 23 games in addition to his 34 starts at first, with Rowdy Tellez and Travis Shaw playing first when he was DH'ing. He started off slowly, hitting just .172 in 7 July games, and hit just 1 homer in his first 14 games, while chasing a lot of pitches outside the strike zone and hitting a lot of ground balls, many of which turned into double plays. However, he finished the season on a tremendous hot streak, going 12 for 27 in his last 7 games, with 6 extra-base hits; he also struck out only 3 times in his final 15 games. He finished at .262 with 9 homers and 33 RBIs, good for an OPS+ of 115, and was one of only a handful of players in the majors to play all 60 games that season. In the Wild Card Series against the Tampa Bay Rays, he was shut down by the Rays' pitching, however, going 1 for 7 in the two games, his only hit a single, with a hit-by-pitch and 4 strikeouts.
Following the 2020 season, he returned to the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican League and was playing third base, with the objective of playing the position again with the Blue Jays in 2021. The Jays had non-tendered Travis Shaw in early December, opening up the position, but had been mum on their plans to fill it. For his part, Vlad lost 42 pounds over the winter, making a return to the hot corner that much more likely. However, the Jays' plans were to have him play first base most of the time, with an occasion turn at DH when Tellez played first. He got off to a very hot start: after 13 games, he was batting .413 with an OPS of 1.200 and had reached base in all of his games. He was also much improved on defense at first base. On April 27th, he had the first three-homer game of his career in a 9-5 win over the Washington Nationals, including a grand slam off Max Scherzer, already the third of his career. His 7 RBI on the night were also a career high. It should also be noted that his illustrious father had never had a three-homer game during his career. He ended the month of May tied with three others for the major league home run lead at 16, having hit .302 with 9 homers and 22 RBIs during the month. He then started June with a bang, his first four-hit game, in a 5-1 win over the Miami Marlins, in the Jays' first "home" game at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, NY. On June 12th, he became the first major league player to reach 20 homers that season, having already obliterated his personal best of 15, set in his rookie season.
He is part of a very large baseball family. In addition to his father, uncle Wilton Guerrero played in the major leagues, and two other uncles, Eleazar Guerrero and Julio Cesar Guerrero played in the minor leagues. Cousin Gabriel Guerrero reached the majors in 2018, and a number of other cousins, including Jose Guerrero, Gregory Guerrero and Josue Guerrero have either been signed by major league teams or are considered top-rank amateur prospects. Another trait he shares with his father is his close relationship to Altagracia Guerrero, Vladimir Sr.'s mother and his own grandmother. She famously lived with Vlad Sr. in Montreal, cooked for him and did his laundry, and did the same thing with her grandson in the minor leagues. She's also very knowledgeable about the game and after every game sits down with her grandson to go over how things went.
- 2018 Baseball America Minor League Player of the Year, New Hampshire Fisher Cats Eastern League and Buffalo Bisons International League
- 2019 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- Doug Alden (Canadian Press): "Vladimir Guerrero Jr. making Fisher Cats a must-follow team", The Toronto Star, May 29, 2018. 
- Ben Badler: "Simply the Best", Baseball America, September 7, 2018. 
- Adam Berry: "Check out Bucs skipper Hurdle's Vlad Jr. story", mlb.com, April 30, 2019. 
- Jim Callis: "Is Vlad Jr. the best prospect ever?", mlb.com, January 28, 2019. 
- Gregor Chisholm: "Vlad Jr.'s time is coming ... just have to wait a bit", mlb.com, April 22, 2019. 
- Ray Glier: "Minor League Player of the Year: Blue Jays prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. following in father's footsteps", USA Today Sports, September 5, 2018. 
- Gabe Lacques: "As Blue Jays flounder, phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. impresses: 'None of this scares him'", USA Today, June 13, 2019. 
- Sarah Langs: "Why Vlad Jr.’s hot start is for real", mlb.com, April 16, 2021. 
- Keegan Matheson: "Vlad Jr. aims to reclaim 3B with winter work", mlb.com, December 8, 2020. 
- Keegan Matheson: "Slimmer Vlad a sight to see: 'I feel quicker'", mlb.com, February 24, 2021. 
- Keegan Matheson: "3-HR night for Vlad Jr? Even dad never did it!", mlb.com, April 28, 2021. 
- Jonathan Mayo: "Vlad Jr. runs away with Pipeline Hitter of the Year", mlb.com, September 5, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will help make Toronto Blue Jays games must-see TV", USA Today, April 24, 2019. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "As Vladimir Guerrero eyes Hall of Fame, his family tree strengthens in Dominican", USA Today Sports' February 11, 2016. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette show off their child's play at Futures Game", July 9, 2017. 
- Jorge L. Ortiz: "Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 19, stays calm as fans beg for call-up: 'God knows the right time'", USA Today Sports, May 25, 2018. 
- Juan Toribio: "Vlad Jr. sets records in stunning Derby display", mlb.com, July 9, 2019. 
- Jesse Yomtov: "Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was the real winner of the Home Run Derby", USA Today, July 9, 2019. 
- Arden Zwelling: "Guerrero Jr. hopes to be in majors in two years", Sportsnet.ca, July 17, 2015.