By Cole Parkinson
Even with the Toronto Blue Jays currently in a Wild Card race, the biggest talking point for the team this season has been uber prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The current ranked number two prospect in all of baseball, Vladdy Jr. has been a man amongst boys in AA this season, despite being only 19.
The fact that he’s playing against older competition may not mean much to some but nonetheless his performance this year has been astronomical.
As of writing this, Jr. is hitting an unbelievable .410 with an on base percentage of .453 and an on base plus slugging of 1.137.
His stats have been other worldly as he has seven home runs, 40 RBI, and 15 doubles.
I don’t care what level you’re at, if you are hitting over .400 you’re having a heck of a season and Vladdy is having one of the best, if not the best season so far in the minor leagues.
With this start, the calls to bring him up have been getting louder and louder with each growing day.
Each day people are keeping an eye on his impact at the double A level and he has yet to disappoint.
I don’t think anyone can argue that his bat isn’t major league ready but the knock on Guerrero Jr. has always been his defence.
Currently playing third base, some see him projected more as a first baseman or a left fielder with the obvious ability to DH him at any given day. This has to be a major factor in the Jays’ front office decision to keep him in the minors.
The fact that third base, first base and the outfield positions are full on the major league roster also has to be a big reason as bringing him up to solely be the DH can’t be a realistic option for the team.
The bad news for those calling for him to be brought up is that Jays GM Ross Atkins has already came out to dispel any thoughts on bringing him straight up to the MLB without a stop in AAA Buffalo.
I honestly think that keeping him in the minors for the next few months is the best possible option for both the team and for Vlad himself.
This Blue Jays team hasn’t shown me anything to suggest that they are really contenders for the World Series let alone a Wild Card spot so rushing him up to play shouldn’t be the team’s focus.
Sure this would inject some excitement for fans but I would prefer to see Vladdy be an everyday player that can play defence as well as hit instead of a sole DH.
He’s only 19 so there is still plenty of room to grow especially on the defensive side so why bring him up now when there isn’t much room for him to be an everyday player.
There’s no way they push Josh Donaldson to a full time DH especially when he’s in a contract season.
The same could be said for Justin Smoak at first or Teoscar Hernandez, Curtis Granderson, Steve Pearce or Randal Grichuk in the corner outfield positions.
The only real opening right now for an everyday player is at the DH position as Kendrys Morales continues to be, what seems like, a sure out any time he steps in the batters box.
Now if the Jays were really pushing for a Wild Card spot, and they may do that in the next few months, then I think there would be a legitimate case to make in bringing up Vlad.
But as the starting rotation continues to struggle and the bats seem like they’ve cooled off, I think the best course of action would be to let it ride out.
I do think a move to triple A has to be in the works in fairly short order though as what else can Vlad do in double A to prove he’s ready for the next level?
Hit over .500?
Hit another 10 home runs?
I doubt they have a set evaluation they need to see in order to bump him up another level but it has to be coming soon.
A move to AAA may prove to bring some extra challenge to the prospect and if he struggles (I don’t think he will), there’s no harm done because a setback in the minors isn’t near the same as it would be in the MLB.
Bringing him up to the show is going to happen, I mean it could even happen this year depending on what the Jays decide to do at the deadline.
If they are completely out of it come late July, I don’t think it would be a shock to see JD traded which would open third base up.
That wouldn’t necessarily mean it’s a slam dunk Vlad comes up but you would have to think by July they would have a good read on what needs to happen in order to continue to challenge him.
But if the Jays’ pitching staff starts to turn it around and the team starts collecting a few wins, you’d have to think there would be a need to bring him up.
Making a push to make the playoffs this year with the turnover coming next year has to be appealing to everyone who is associated with the Jays.
Donaldson is more than likely gone, Marco Estrada and JA Happ are both free agents so next year the team can expect to see quite a few changes.
Now it’s easy to say this team can make a push for the Wild Card spot but it’s certainly not easy to expect they can do it.
The L.A. Angels and one of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox are controlling the two available spots the Jays can slot into.
The American League East race for the Jays is over, let’s be honest.
The Yankees or Red Sox will be the division winner and whoever finishes second will be a Wild Card team.
So that leaves one available spot.
The Angels and Seattle Mariners are currently ahead of Toronto in the last Wild Card race and neither team is a slouch.
Sure, Guerrero Jr. would be an added boost to the lineup but even if the team does manage to jump both of Seattle and L.A., I just don’t think they are good enough.
Anything can happen in a Wild Card game but after that you’re looking at a matchup with one of Houston, Cleveland or New York/Boston and each of those teams is better than Toronto, even with Vlad.
So while I’d love to see him get the call this year, I think patience is the best option moving forward.
The Jays have some exciting prospects in the pipe and who knows, in a few years the Jays could be legit contenders.
The good news is in the near future Vlad Guerrero Jr. will be a Blue Jay and hopefully he will be here for a long time.