It's a big day for for a young man. 20 year old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will finally step into the spotlight as a Major League Baseball player on Friday, with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The top pick has been smashing records in the minor leagues, just waiting to be let out of the gate on to the big field.
If the name sounds familiar to you, it should. His father Vladimir Guerrero Sr. was a household name and perennial all-star for the Montreal Expos in the late ’90s and early 2000s. In 2018 Guerrero Sr. was immortalized in Cooperstown, NY as a Baseball Hall of Fame inductee.
Even in the shadow of his father's accolades, Vlad Jr. has more than made a name for himself and comes into the Majors with plenty of fanfare surrounding him. The Canadian-Dominican third baseman is currently the top prospect in baseball globally. His rise to baseball supremacy has been well-documented. When the Toronto Blue Jays signed Guerrero Jr. as a 16-year-old to a $3.9 million dollar contract back in July 2015, they were hedging their bets that the heir apparent would replicate his father’s dominance.
With Guerrero Jr. scheduled to be called up to the majors from the Jays minor league affiliate the Buffalo Bisons, expectations are high that he’ll be the future of the franchise for a very long time.
"[These kinds players] don't come across very often," says Blue Jays special assistant of Latin American operations Ismael Cruz (to MLB.com). "So it was either play all of your marbles on one guy or it was go out and get a couple of players that are fine. For us, Vladimir is a difference-maker. He has the potential to be a very, very special kid."
Special enough to breeze through 4 minor league baseball ranks last summer with ease, batting an average of .381 (anything over .300 is considered exceptional) with 20 homers and 78 RBI in 95 games. Though it’s not uncommon for the Dominican Republic to produce some of MLB’s top players, Guerrero Jr. has been tapped as a ‘can’t miss’ prospect.
So why has it taken this long for the training wheels to come off? "Is he good enough to play at the big level? Yes," says Bisons manager Bobby Meacham (to CBC.ca). "He was two years ago. But you can’t develop at the big level when you’re that young and you’re still learning that many things."
That said, Meacham also praises Guerrero’s knowledge at the plate, detailing how he quickly learns a pitcher’s strategy against him. If a curveball strikes him out early in the game, Meacham knows Guerrero Jr’s ‘licking his chops’ waiting to see that same pitch at his next at-bat.
"I think it came from playing with older guys that I learn from all the time," Guererro Jr. said through a translator (to CBC.ca.) "And just learning from them and watching them play. I got it from following their footsteps."
The Toronto Blue Jays have a long history with players from the Dominican. Black Hispanic players like Tony Fernandez, George Bell and Edwin Encarnación all hailed from the island and were standout players during their time with the club.
There’s been plenty of chatter comparing Guererro Jr. to the other great Dominican power hitters that he patterns his game after. Especially his Hall of Fame father. "We have the same swing,” Guererro Jr explains in 2015 during his early rise (to BleacherReport.com). “We both have strong arms. I want to steal bases like he did. I can't think of anything that is different [between us]."
Similarities or not, Guererro Jr. is not shy from setting lofty goals to separate himself.
“I feel no pressure. I’m confident in my own talent and ability," he says. "My dad had 9 All-Star games, I want 10. He only had like 450 home runs, I am going to try to hit way more, like Bonds. I also want 3,000 hits—my dad just missed it."
Guererro Sr. somewhat disagrees with his son’s assessment, but in a flattering way.
"He has more power, a lot. I was very thin. Other than that, we are the same player," Guererro Sr. explains (to BleacherReport.com). "We both played like men since we were very young."
Jays Manager Charlie Montoyo is fully aware of the significance of Guererro Jr.’s arrival to the big leagues this week. "It’s a big moment for the Toronto Blue Jays," says Montoyo (to CBC.ca). "He’s the number one prospect in baseball. Hopefully, he becomes what everyone thinks he can become."
Sheldon Barrocks is an experienced creative freelance writer, blogger and content creator with over 10 years experience. Combined with an extensive background in business management, Sheldon has a passion for telling unique stories from the Black perspective and is committed to sharing his expertise on Black business and career enhancement.