Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Is (Finally) Hitting His Stride

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrived within the main leagues in 2019, he was one of the vital hyped prospects in baseball historical past. The Toronto Blue Jays’ wunderkind arrived with a No. 1 rating on numerous prime prospect lists, in fact, however it went deeper than that. Even the MLB’s personal writers questioned, “Is Vlad Jr. the best prospect ever?” It wasn’t an unreasonable query, given Guerrero’s dominance of the minor leagues and what scouts prefer to name “pedigree.” He’s the son of Hall of Fame outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.



Despite his expertise and household historical past, Vlad Jr.’s first few years within the bigs didn’t justify the excitement. He wasn’t unhealthy, however he wasn’t setting the league on fireplace, both. Going by FanGraphs’ adjusted Runs Created stat (wRC+), Vlad Jr. was about 5 % higher at serving to his crew generate runs than a league-average hitter as a rookie, then 12 % higher in 2020. In different phrases, he was a great hitter, however not the form of smashing celebrity individuals had predicted. At least not but.

In 2021, that’s all modified. Vlad Jr. is likely one of the most respected gamers within the sport to date this 12 months. He has registered three.5 wins above alternative (primarily, over what a typical minor league callup would get the Jays). He has reached the league’s most elite tier by doing among the identical issues his dad used to do, but additionally by charting his personal course as a hitter. Here’s how the 2 examine.

Yes, Vlad Jr. has his dad’s pop on the plate—possibly much more.

MLB didn’t have high-tech cameras to inform us precisely how laborious Vlad Sr. hit the ball throughout his profession (which lasted from 1996 to 2011), however suffice it to say: He hit it very laborious.

In that point, Vlad Sr. made 9 All-Star Games, was named the American League MVP in 2004, and established a resume that made him a second-ballot Hall of Famer in 2018. (He completed simply 15 votes shy of constructing it in 2017.) He wrapped up his profession with a .318 cumulative batting common and 449 homers, cementing his standing as the most effective hitters ever.

Vlad Jr. is continuous that custom. This 12 months, he has hit 18 homers whereas posting a .330 common and a 1.089 OPS, a league-leading determine. Compare Vlad Jr.’s numbers to Vlad Sr.’s throughout his 2004 MVP marketing campaign, and Junior seems to be fairly good to date. Going by Baseball Reference’s OPS+ statistic, Vlad Jr. has been twice pretty much as good as the typical hitter in 2021. Vlad Sr. was “only” 57 % higher than the typical hitter the 12 months he gained MVP.


They’re fairly comparable within the discipline, for higher and (largely) worse.

Vlad Sr. was one of many worst fielders of his technology. During his profession, he was value 10 wins under alternative degree as an outfielder. That made him one of many 30 most dangerous defenders in baseball in the course of the years he performed, even though he was largely a chosen hitter (and due to this fact not enjoying within the discipline) by the previous few years of his profession.

Even so, he did make some rifle throws:

Vlad Jr., like his dad, is extraordinarily unhealthy at protection on the entire. He’s been value -1.5 defensive WAR over his first three years. The Blue Jays performed him at third base when he was a rookie, then moved him over to first base the previous few seasons. Despite some strong performs, he has been fairly unhealthy with no bat in his hand.

It’s not that his protection doesn’t matter; he’s simply such a great hitter that he stays an MVP-caliber participant anyway. And by inserting him largely first base and in addition utilizing him as a non-fielding designated hitter, the Jays are ready to make sure that his defensive limitations don’t grow to be an excessive amount of of a legal responsibility.

The massive distinction between father and son: How they go after pitches.

Vlad Sr. was his period’s defining free-swinger. He hardly ever encountered a pitch he didn’t like. Across his profession, he swung at 58 % of the pitches he noticed, together with 46 % of balls out of the strike zone. Those had been by far the very best charges of any of the nice hitters of his time, with only some lesser hitters swinging extra ceaselessly total. Vlad Sr. swung at balls within the grime and hit them as if he had been enjoying cricket. Sometimes it labored:

Vlad Jr. is way completely different on this regard. He swings at about 47 % of the pitches he sees and solely 29 % of non-strikes—profession figures which can be dropping this season. After not drawing many walks in his first two years, he’s now taking a base on balls in about 15 % of his plate appearances—twice as usually as Vlad Sr. took them in his MVP season.

That’s a part of the brilliance of Vlad Jr. He’s his father’s son; you’ll be able to see it in how joyfully he performs the sport and the way a lot energy he swings with. But he’s following his personal path in main league baseball, and it’d simply lead him to his personal MVP season.

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