Baseball has been worse off ever since Vladimir Guerrero retired, as the game can always use more unrepentant oddballs who will hit singles off of pitches that bounced in the dirt and generally hack away with little thought of the consequences. Guerrero’s never coming back, but there’s a decent chance we’ll be seeing his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., in the majors sooner than later.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is currently tearing it up in his first real season in the minor leagues at just 18 years old. The Montreal-born Guerrero Jr. was raised in the Dominican Republic and signed with the Blue Jays system as an international signing when he was 16. He was trained by his uncle Wilton (who also played in the majors) and his father in a baseball academy, which is a far cry from how Vladimir Sr., who famously showed up to his tryout with the Expos on the back of a moped wearing mismatched shoes, grew up.
The younger Guerrero already sports a 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, and he packs some serious power in what is an indisputably gorgeous swing. Here is a 15-year-old Guerrero Jr. showing off for scouts, and looking very much like his dad while doing so:
Guerrero Jr. was immediately categorized as a top prospect and the Jays paid $3.9 million for him. As with any hyped prospect, there’s a hefty degree of uncertainty, especially with someone as young as Vlad Jr. After spending some time in the rookie-level Appalachian League with the Bluefield Blue Jays, he joined the Class A Lansing Lugnuts this season for his first full year in the minor leagues. So far, he’s excelling. Despite being nearly four years younger than the median age of the Midwest League, Guerrero Jr. is hitting .312/.404/.453 with four homers and six steals. Most impressive of all, he has more walks that strikeouts, a fact his father he is rather proud of, according to the Toronto Star:
“The big difference in batting style, in what Junior does, is that he’s more selective than I was playing,” Guerrero said. “I would swing at anything, in the strike zone, out of the strike zone. I just wanted to hit the ball hard. But Junior’s more selective at the plate than I was at this point in our careers.”
Guerrero Jr. currently plays third base for Lansing, but his fielding is apparently not on par with his hitting ability. The Blue Jays have moved him around the outfield and Jeff Passan observed that he may end up at a corner outfield spot or perhaps at first base. He can be forgiven for being a bit on the raw side, since Guerrero Jr. just turned 18 in March and he is already generating the sort of minor-league fables that accompany any hotshot prospect:
Lugnuts infielder Bradley Jones recalls how, when the two were teammates last season in rookie ball, Guerrero hit a home run at the Bluefield Blue Jays home field into the forest that serves as the stadium’s backdrop. Google it and your jaw might click your mouse.
A Lansing staffer says this season Guerrero homered off the scoreboard at Cooley Law School Stadium, the team’s home field. The staffer’s unscientific estimate is that, without anything in the ball’s path, it would have landed just shy of 500 feet.
Right now, MLB.com has Guerrero Jr. ranked as the game’s 27th-best prospect and the top prospect in the Blue Jays’ system. However, he’s already climbing up similar lists from other outlets, and, according to Passan, a few scouts believe he’ll be the top prospect in all of baseball by the end of the year. If he continues to mash like his dad and tightens up that throw to first base, odds are you’ll see him in the major leagues sooner rather than later.