So the Toronto Blue Jays have fallen apart after a surprisingly strong start to their season, and ‘Oh No’ looks like it’s time to pull the only parachute the team has and call up Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
WAIT! Not so fast! This really isn’t the best time to bring up the number one prospect in all of baseball! Sure the team isn’t as exciting as you would like, but your boredom should not be reason enough to call up an exciting young player and throw him into the fire.
The general consensus of the (very limited) nay sayers on bringing up Vlad at this time is that you would be effectively burning a year of his contract for a team that isn’t contending for much of anything.
Sure, that valid, but Vlad is the number one prospect in the sport. This is something Blue Jay’s fans are not really well equipped to deal with because it isn’t Adam Lind, or Kevin Pillar – both good, solid players, but both not ranked anywhere near the top of the league wide prospect pool. Vlad on the other hand is that elite talent, and if he can translate that to the big stage then he’ll be getting a huge payday long before his entry deal expires – so there goes that argument. So it is understandable to want him here now, but it’s also just wrong.
So, here are three reasons why Vlad getting called up to the Jay’s right now, NOT including burning a year off his contract:
No Where To Play
The Blue Jays are currently rostering one of the best offensively talented third basemen in the league, with Josh Donaldson patrolling the hot corner. He is one of the most highly sought after pending free agents, and although suffering some setback with a UBI, has come back and been pretty productive for the Jays.
When out with injury Yangervis Solarte provided depth coverage at the three bag, and performed admirably on both sides of the ball. He doesn’t have the athletic range that Donaldson provides, but he was able to hit at the top of the order, and minimized greatly the loss of the all-star defender to injury.
Outside of Solarte, the Jays also signed the once highly touted Cleveland prospect Giovanny Urshela who has played all infield positions but called third base his home, in a move to add depth to the team. As well and surprisingly so, Russell Martin has also played some third base for the Jays this season. This, a luxury the team can afford with backup catcher Luke Maile performing as well as he has offensively (to match his pretty impressive defensive play).
So third base is covered…WELL covered. You could put him in the outfield, as he has played left field in the past, but Teoscar Hernandez, Curtis Granderson, Dalton Pompey, Dwight Smith Jr., Steve Pearce, Randall Grichuk (DL), and Anthony Alford are all better options for that position.
Okay, so DH him! Again, not so simple as it may seem. One of the inaugural signings of the Shapiro-Atkins era, Kendrys Morales is earning $11 million this year, and $12 million next year realistically, not as a bench warmer. Not to mention Granderson and Pearce’s abilities to step in and get timely hits for the Jays in this position so far this season.
Right now there isn’t a place for him, so don’t shoehorn him into a spot he doesn’t belong for the sake of having him here.
Let Him Work On His Defence
Vlad’s offence is well documented – currently hitting .400 avg, with 6 hr, and 39 RBIs in 34 games. Here’s a clip of him assaulting a baseball off a tee for an opposite field homerun that presumably landed on the moon:
— NH Fisher Cats (@FisherCats) May 7, 2018
But on the other side of the ball, only Bo Bichette, Vlad’s running mate for quick promotion in AA baseball has more errors than him this season – 5 for Vlad and 6 for Bo. The easy response to this is to blame the first basemen who would likely be on the receiving end for a few of these errors, and fair play as Juan Kelly, the Fisher Cat’s 1B has four errors himself. But this is indicative of something that shouldn’t be taken too lightly when evaluating a player, no less a prospect.
Baseball has a two sided sport, and as much of a beast that Vlad is at the plate – he needs to hone his skills on defence first. For both him and the team this is a fact that makes sense – look at Mike Trout. Sure he can muscle a ball out of the any stadium for a home run, but he makes so many more highlight reels and so much more money because he is one of the best defensive players in his position! How many times have we seen the 6’2″, 235lb centre fielder leap over the outfield wall to pull back a home run, or sprint across the outfield to lay out for what looked like a for sure base hit?
Look at Manny Machado – physically he is different from Vlad, but positionally they are the same. Manny has 13 home runs this season and has hit more than 30 home runs in each of his last three seasons. And despite all of these mashed balls what do we think about when we talk Machado? His unbelievable defensive range and ability to throw across the diamond without fail, no matter his position.
Be the complete player Vlad, not the big body muscle man who can hit jacks and not much else. You already have the rocket arm, now hone in positioning and accuracy to cash in on those impressive skills.
Do We Really Want Our Top Prospect Associated With This team?
The Jay’s are a .500 team and trail both the Red Sox and the Yankees in the AL East division, both conditions all but expected at the outset of the season. In reality, the Jays were a lot better earlier this season and their .500 record shows a drastic fall in form in the passed ten games if not more (3-7). Players like Yangervis Solarte and Curtis Granderson are both positive, veteran players that you would want player-coaching any young player, but outside of them do we really want to associate our best prospect ever with this team?
What is the message sent if the Jays bring up Vlad without a vacant position, or any real care for defensive development to his game (that would literally be the message sent to him if he was put in as DH)?
“You’re the saviour, kid. So save us!” Ahh, huge expectations thrust upon him at the outset of his major league career, that can’t be too mentally damaging for a young kid, right?
Give him the late summer call up to the majors if Donaldson has been moved by then (please, God), and let him wade into these pressure filled waters with some protection. If the Jay’s are still competing for a wildcard spot then let him contribute, if they aren’t, well then the pressure is off and he can just play – its a win/win for him and the team.
Opening day 2019 – that should be the target got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to step in to his major league career full time. Let him play for the first half this year in AA, promote him to AAA to get a different look at more professional pitchers, and ease him into his life as a pro.
Let 2019 be the season that Toronto commits to their young prospect pool – Hernandez, Gurriel, Bichette, Biggio, Reid-Foley, Romano, and the crowning jewel, Vlad Jr. Until then, don’t let boredom or a losing season dictate the forced promotion of the most precious commodity in the sport.