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Vlad Jr. diplomatic in discussing MLB time frame

Blue Jays' manager, teammates in awe of top prospect's maturity
MLB.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With each passing day, the hype continues to grow around Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but MLB Pipeline's top-ranked prospect seems to be keeping a pretty level head throughout all the chaos.

Guerrero talked to the media for the first time this spring on Monday morning and brushed aside any talk about expecting to make the Major League roster out of camp. He might still be a teenager, but at least in his public comments the phenom seems mature well beyond his years.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With each passing day, the hype continues to grow around Vladimir Guerrero Jr., but MLB Pipeline's top-ranked prospect seems to be keeping a pretty level head throughout all the chaos.

Guerrero talked to the media for the first time this spring on Monday morning and brushed aside any talk about expecting to make the Major League roster out of camp. He might still be a teenager, but at least in his public comments the phenom seems mature well beyond his years.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

With fans and even some members of the media seemingly upset that Guerrero is not expected to head to Toronto at the end of Spring Training, he was provided with plenty of opportunities to criticize the organization for its approach. Time and time again Monday, Guerrero declined to take that stance.

"I know that I need to focus on controlling what I can control, and working hard every day to make the best out of it," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "Trying to get better every day, really working hard and giving the best of me."

Video: MLB Network on Vlad Jr. being game's top prospect

Trying to find a specific player at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin usually turns into a game of "Where's Waldo." With more than 60 players spread across four diamonds, it can often be difficult to keep track of who is playing where at any given time. Not so much with Guerrero, who draws a huge crowd wherever he goes.

A crew of photographers follows his every step. Stretching, fielding, hitting, it doesn't matter -- the mandate is to get visuals for someone who has already become one of the most popular players in the game, and arguably Toronto's biggest star, before even making his official debut. Reporters task themselves with tracking each pitch in batting practice, each swipe of the glove in the field.

The whole scene can be a little bit overwhelming, even to outside observers. Only Guerrero knows what it's like to walk in his shoes, amid all of the expectations that go along with it, but so far he seems to be doing a pretty good job of carrying that extra pressure around.

"When I'm here on the field and in the clubhouse, I'm a baseball player," Guerrero said. "Outside, when I'm at home, I'm just a person, a human being. I try to come here, give my best here, leave it here and then go back to being a person at home, just a regular guy."

The cool and calm demeanor that Guerrero has displayed in his first big league camp hasn't gone unnoticed by teammates and Toronto's coaching staff. Blue Jays shortstop Freddy Galvis was quick to point out that Guerrero is always one of the first to arrive at the ballpark every morning, and he praised his overall maturity. Countless others have done the same.

Video: Charlie Montoyo discusses Vlad Jr.'s workout

Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo simply shakes his head in wonder when asked about how Guerrero is dealing with all of the attention. Montoyo doesn't quite understand how Guerrero is able to handle it, but he remains blown away at the overall approach.

"I can't relate to being 19 years old and being as even-keel and cool as that kid is, I'm impressed to tell you the truth," Montoyo said. "That's the mark of a star. He's going to be a star someday, as we all know, and it's amazing that he can be like that, that comfortable for being 19 years old.

"I just told him, I just had a meeting with him and I told him, 'I can't relate to you. I'm impressed.' It can't be easy, all of the attention, being that young."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Buzz precedes Vlad Jr.'s arrival at camp

GM Atkins reiterates top prospect likely to start season at Triple-A
MLB.com

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hasn't even reported for duty yet and already he has become the main talking point at Blue Jays Spring Training.

General manager Ross Atkins was bombarded with questions about MLB Pipeline's top prospect during his first media availability of the spring on Thursday. More than two-thirds of Atkins' scrum was focused on Guerrero, and that trend is unlikely to change any time soon for one of baseball's most polarizing figures.

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hasn't even reported for duty yet and already he has become the main talking point at Blue Jays Spring Training.

General manager Ross Atkins was bombarded with questions about MLB Pipeline's top prospect during his first media availability of the spring on Thursday. More than two-thirds of Atkins' scrum was focused on Guerrero, and that trend is unlikely to change any time soon for one of baseball's most polarizing figures.

One rotation spot up for grabs, Atkins says

The expectation entering this spring was that the Blue Jays would have Guerrero start the year at Triple-A Buffalo while Brandon Drury would at least temporarily be named Toronto's starting third baseman. Atkins' comments at the start of camp drove that point home even further.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I think that's the most likely scenario," Atkins conceded when asked about Drury being the Opening Day third baseman. "Having said that, we're a good number of days away from opening the season, and we'll see how things progress. Health, performance."

The Blue Jays continue to insist all of this is about making sure Guerrero receives enough time to develop. They are quick to point out that Guerrero is 19 years old and has played only 30 games at Triple-A. The organization is also quick to mention that Guerrero's offense is one asset of his game and defense/baserunning remain areas of improvement.

Vlad Jr. among 20 impact rookies

The counter argument by others outside the organization is that Guerrero is considered the best prospect in baseball and has nothing left to prove against his Minor League peers. That his bat is so good, he's not only ready to face big league pitching, but that that he might step in on Day 1 and immediately become Toronto's top hitter.

Video: MLB Network on Vlad Jr. being game's top prospect

There are other factors at play here as well. If the Blue Jays delay Guerrero's arrival, it's possible the organization would be able to keep him under club control for seven seasons, instead of the normal six. Toronto can't come out and admit that's part of the thought process, because it would be considered a manipulation of service time, but it adds to the intrigue and fuels questions.

"It's all about developing," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. "He's going to compete. Just like everybody else, he's going to get a chance to compete and make the club. But the one thing about Vlad, because I haven't seen him personally, I'm going to enjoy just watching him play.

"If for some reason he doesn't make the club, I've got Bobby Meacham down [in Buffalo], who I trust, who has been around and been a player-development guy. I will communicate with him every day and we'll go from there."

Roster in transition as Blue Jays open camp

Guerrero isn't expected to report to camp until this weekend. Position players are required to be in Dunedin for physicals on Sunday, and the first full squad workout is scheduled for the following day. Once in camp, Guerrero will be a full-fledged member of the spring roster and should be expected to see lots of time at third base.

The expectations probably shouldn't get any higher for a guy who slashed .381/.437/.636 across 95 games last season, but once people start watching him hit on a daily basis, they probably will anyways. At least for now, the development continues.

"There is no firm timeline on when he arrives and when he is playing in Toronto for the first time," Atkins said. "But we want to make sure he's the best possible third baseman, best possible hitter he can be. This is going to be a fun and exciting time for him. A fun and exciting time for the organization."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Blue Jays' hope for 2019 lies in the future

MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays spent the past two years clinging to the past. Now, they're embracing the future.

Toronto starts 2019 with a bit of a clean slate. The days of adding patchwork solutions to an aging roster are over, and instead, the organization is laying a foundation for the future. There might be some short-term pain, but the expectation is that it will lead to long-term gains.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays spent the past two years clinging to the past. Now, they're embracing the future.

Toronto starts 2019 with a bit of a clean slate. The days of adding patchwork solutions to an aging roster are over, and instead, the organization is laying a foundation for the future. There might be some short-term pain, but the expectation is that it will lead to long-term gains.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

So what's the vision for the Blue Jays? Well it's to stay on course, develop the young players in their system and begin the process of easing these prospects into the Major Leagues. Toronto wants to remain competitive, but this season's success will not come down to wins and losses, but rather overall player development.

Here's a look at what the Blue Jays are trying to accomplish this year:

Out with the old, in with the new
One era of Blue Jays baseball has been ushered out and another one is set to begin. Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Roberto Osuna and Aaron Loup were among the remaining remnants of the 2016 American League Championship Series team who have left the organization. In their spots are younger players just beginning their careers. Danny Jansen, Ryan Borucki and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have arrived. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Cavan Biggio won't be too far behind, and before too long, all eyes will be on Bo Bichette. This year is all about the kids.

Who stays, who goes?
Not all of these young players are going to pan out, and some tough decisions will have to be made along the way. Toronto will use this year to determine whether Teoscar Hernandez's defense can be salvaged in left field. The season will provide definitive answers on whether Sean Reid-Foley, Thomas Pannone, Trent Thornton and Julian Merryweather are viable Major League arms. Jansen appears destined to become a No. 1 catcher for years to come. In six months, the Blue Jays will have a much better idea of how realistic that really is.

Video: Top Prospects: Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays

Follow the Rays
Tampa Bay entered last season as an afterthought and still won 90 games. The Rays accomplished that by thinking outside the box with unusual defensive shifts, the opener strategy of using a reliever to start games, unique platoons and a lot more. New Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo was a big part of those decisions, and he'll undoubtedly bring some of the strategies with him to Toronto. In the clubhouse, this group isn't talking about rebuilding, but how to maximize its victories. The Blue Jays don't have to look very far for motivation. This team will embrace thinking outside the box, similar to that club down south.

Call me Vladdy
Guerrero isn't just the Blue Jays' No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline, he's the best in MLB and arguably the best prospect in franchise history. He's being billed as a Hall of Famer in the making. MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis debated whether Guerrero is the best prospect in Major League history. The hype is real, and sometime soon his talents will be on display at the Major League level. Guerrero, more than anyone else, will give people a reason to tune into Blue Jays games. It's not his team yet, but it will be soon and 2019 is when that transition begins. What's the vision for the Blue Jays? Well, at least part of it involves climbing on Guerrero's back and enjoying the ride.

Video: MLB Network on Vlad Jr. being game's top prospect

Return on investment
The timing wasn't right to trade Marcus Stroman or Aaron Sanchez this offseason. Both starters were coming off injury-plagued years and their trade values weren't high enough to justify moving high-caliber arms for cents on the dollar. That should change if either pitcher gets off to a strong start this year.

Toronto wasn't able to net much of a return for Donaldson last season and the club would like to make sure history doesn't repeat itself by securing big hauls for veteran pieces such as Stroman, Sanchez, Ken Giles and Justin Smoak. The rebuild isn't over; it will continue midway through this year.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Danny Jansen

Inbox: Who are Blue Jays' sleeper prospects?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Hardcore Jays fans like myself are well aware of the best prospects in the pipeline, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Nate Pearson, but who might be the breakout candidates from among the rest of the pack?
-- David G., Toronto, @accfanto

Two outfielders not ranked in MLB Pipeline's list of the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects come to mind: Cal Stevenson and Chavez Young.

Hardcore Jays fans like myself are well aware of the best prospects in the pipeline, like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Nate Pearson, but who might be the breakout candidates from among the rest of the pack?
-- David G., Toronto, @accfanto

Two outfielders not ranked in MLB Pipeline's list of the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects come to mind: Cal Stevenson and Chavez Young.

Stevenson was taken in the 10th round of last year's MLB Draft and made quite the debut by hitting .369/.511/.523 across 59 games in Rookie ball. Stevenson will get his first full-season assignment this year, and if his on-base percentage remains strong, he should move into the Top 30 by this time next year. Young already has a season at Class A Lansing under his belt, and he should advance to Dunedin, where a breakout season would have a similar result on his ranking.

:: Submit a question to the Blue Jays Inbox ::

Pipeline's No. 11-ranked Hector Perez has received more attention, but internally the expectations might be even higher. While a lot of talk has centered on Perez becoming a reliever, the Blue Jays think he can make it as a starter. If there's a weakness in Toronto's system, it's on the mound, and Perez is the type of prospect the Blue Jays need to pan out if they're going to complement a group of high-ceiling position players. Long-term, Eric Pardinho is my pick to headline this next wave of prospects.

We all say that Vlad Jr.'s bat is ready for the big leagues, but what about his defense? If he starts playing and having issues on defense, will that impact his offensive production like we saw with Teoscar Hernandez?
-- Dominic P., Chambly, Quebec

It feels almost natural to pick apart a young player's game. Focus on his strengths, point out his weaknesses. People do it all the time. Guerrero is so good offensively, his glove is one of the only things that can be criticized, and sometimes that means it gets pointed out a bit too much.

Everything I've seen from Guerrero suggests he'll be fine at third. Is he going to win a Gold Glove there at some point? I highly doubt it, but his hands and range should be passable as he transitions to the big league level. As Guerrero continues to grow, he may eventually need to transition to first base, but third should remain his home for the foreseeable future. If it becomes a problem later on, Toronto will adjust.

Video: Top Prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays

If the Blue Jays trade Justin Smoak, who will be the new first basemen? Rowdy Tellez? How will Joe Biagini do this season, and what do you think will happen if he doesn't live up to expectations?
-- Brooke N., @BrookeNaismith_

If the Blue Jays trade Smoak, Tellez would become the starter. Whether the No. 29 prospect would be taking over on a short- or long-term basis depends entirely on how he performs this season. Tellez finished 2018 strong as a September callup, but it's worth noting that prior to that, he was limited to a .765 OPS in the Minors, so he doesn't have any guarantees.

It's safe to say Biagini's days as a starter are over. Toronto spent parts of the past two seasons experimenting with Biagini in the rotation, and the move didn't pan out. The 28-year-old will have to win a job this spring, but there's a good chance he will open the year in the 'pen. Biagini does have options remaining, so being sent to Triple-A Buffalo is another possibility if the struggles continue.

Can you expand on your thoughts on the shortstop situation? Do you really think Freddy Galvis is the likely starter with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. serving as a super-sub? It is hard to imagine they wouldn't give Gurriel at least half of a season to see if he can cut it, since he has the most upside.
-- Terry C., @tcain47

Gurriel is going to be an everyday player, and when it's all said and done, more than half his games will probably come at shortstop, but I do expect the Blue Jays to move him all over the field. I think you'd be hard-pressed to call either Galvis or Gurriel the starter at shortstop, because even though that's where the bulk of Gurriel's workload might happen, he's also going to start some games at third, second and possibly even a corner-outfield spot.

Typically teams want to find a permanent position for their young players. It helps them settle in and it keeps the focus on long-term growth. The Blue Jays have a different situation here, because by most accounts Bichette is the shortstop of the future. Add in Kevin Smith, and Toronto probably doesn't have much of a need for Gurriel at shortstop beyond this year. That's why it won't hurt to see how he plays at other positions, and having Galvis on the roster allows the Blue Jays to do that.

Video: Chisholm on impact of the Blue Jays signing Galvis

Isn't there some logic in the Jays pursuing Bryce Harper and front-loading a contract offer while they have the payroll flexibility the next couple of years? Part and parcel to that, couldn't Guerrero use some protection at the plate?
-- Seth P., Las Vegas

There would be logic in just about any team adding Harper, and the Blue Jays are no exception. Toronto's payroll has been north of $160 million during each of the past two seasons, and the early projection for 2019 has the club a lot closer to $110 million. At first glance there should be a lot of financial flexibility, but that doesn't mean any of this is even remotely realistic.

The Blue Jays, while vague on the specifics, are on record as saying payroll is going down. The club is currently in the process of rebuilding and, frankly, isn't in the market for players who are in Harper's class. The improvement will have to come internally from a new young core of players before those type of significant investments will be considered again.

I can't help but think Marwin Gonzalez is the perfect free-agent fit for Toronto as a rebuilding squad. His versatility and ability to fill holes through struggles would have to be a great asset. Thoughts?
-- Steve D., St. John's, Newfoundland

You're not the only one. Early in the offseason, a lot of critics pegged the Blue Jays as being a potential landing spot for Gonzalez. Since then, there hasn't really been anything linking Gonzalez to the only team north of the border.

The thing about Gonzalez is that his versatility wouldn't mean as much to the Blue Jays as it would to other teams. Toronto already has Brandon Drury, and possibly even Gurriel, without a set position. With a glut of infielders on this roster, it would limit the benefit of Gonzalez playing second, third and even short. If the price tag becomes affordable, perhaps this might change, but it's hard envision these two sides lining up.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Around the Horn: Duo to battle for backstop

Jansen has early advantage, McGuire aims to keep pressure on
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will start determining who their catcher of the future will be when Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire battle it out behind the plate this spring.

Toronto paid $16.4 million for the Dodgers to take Russell Martin off its hands and the hefty price tag was all about clearing a path for these two men. The competition will begin this spring and should carry deep into the year with the long-term No. 1 role up for grabs.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will start determining who their catcher of the future will be when Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire battle it out behind the plate this spring.

Toronto paid $16.4 million for the Dodgers to take Russell Martin off its hands and the hefty price tag was all about clearing a path for these two men. The competition will begin this spring and should carry deep into the year with the long-term No. 1 role up for grabs.

Even following Martin's departure, the Blue Jays have a lot of depth behind the plate. As MLB.com begins its annual Around the Horn series, here's where things currently stand for Toronto's group of catchers:

The frontrunner
The Blue Jays claim the No. 1 job is up for grabs, but it seems like a foregone conclusion that Jansen will get first crack. The 23-year-old received a promotion last year before McGuire, and he appeared in more than twice the number of games. Jansen (No. 3) has been ranked ahead of McGuire (No. 20) for each of the past two years according to MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Toronto prospects list and -- at least early on -- this will be his job to lose. Jansen's biggest asset in this competition is his bat, which produced a .275/.390/.473 slash line with 12 homers and 58 RBIs in 88 games at Triple-A Buffalo last season. The biggest challenge will be learning a new pitching staff, and Jansen will have to do it while holding off McGuire.

Video: Top Prospects: Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays

The backup
There's a good chance Toronto isn't ready to have Jansen and McGuire on the roster at the same time. The preference seems to be having each player in the lineup on a regular basis. So if Jansen wins the starting job, there's a good chance McGuire will open the year at Triple-A Buffalo. This game of musical chairs opens the door for Luke Maile to return as Toronto's primary backup for a second consecutive season. Last season, Maile outperformed Martin by hitting .248/.333/.366 across 68 games. The 27-year-old has an option remaining, so the Blue Jays could send him to Buffalo, but odds are he makes the team in a reserve role.

Video: TB@TOR: Maile makes sliding catch in foul ground

The underdog
McGuire faces an uphill battle to make the team, but he's not too far behind in this race for things to change over time. If Jansen struggles this spring, McGuire potentially pushes him for a roster spot. If Jansen gets off to a poor start in April or May, it almost assuredly creates an opening for McGuire. He hit just .233/.312/.339 at Triple-A last season, but it's the strength of his arm and his defensive work behind the plate that remain the most appealing. If McGuire's not on the 25-man roster on Opening Day, it shouldn't take long for him to get there.

Video: TOR@BAL: McGuire cuts down Jones to end the 1st

Now or never
Max Pentecost was left exposed during the December Rule 5 Draft again this offseason, and he went unclaimed for the second consecutive year. The former first-round Draft pick appeared in a career-high 89 games last season, but five years into his Toronto tenure, he still has very little to show for his efforts. Pentecost likely makes the jump to Triple-A Buffalo this season. If he's ever going to make the Major Leagues, his bat has to improve, because last year's .684 OPS at Double-A New Hampshire simply won't cut it. This is shaping up to be Pentecost's make-or-break year in the Blue Jays' system.

In the pipeline
The Blue Jays do not have any other catching prospects ranked in the top 30 in their system. One player who used to be on that list, but fell off this year after some additions through the MLB Draft, is Hagen Danner. The 20-year-old appeared in 32 games for Rookie-level Bluefield in 2018. He was taken out of high school and remains a long-term project, but slashed .279/.409/.432 to show the type of offensive upside Toronto has been looking for. Other Rookie-level catchers to keep an eye on include Gabriel Moreno and Alejandro Kirk. Class A Advanced Dunedin's Riley Adams could crack the top 30 with a strong season in 2019.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Danny Jansen, Luke Maile, Reese McGuire

Projecting Vlad Jr.'s first 10 seasons

MLB.com

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is one of baseball's most intriguing players heading into the 2019 season.

He's the No.1 prospect in the sport, according to MLB Pipeline. From a scouting perspective, he might be the best pure hitting prospect in recent history. From an analytical perspective, he is projected to hit the ground running as one of MLB's best players, as soon as he gets the call.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is one of baseball's most intriguing players heading into the 2019 season.

He's the No.1 prospect in the sport, according to MLB Pipeline. From a scouting perspective, he might be the best pure hitting prospect in recent history. From an analytical perspective, he is projected to hit the ground running as one of MLB's best players, as soon as he gets the call.

But that projection is just for 2019. In an effort to forecast further into the future, sabermetrician Brian Cartwright provided MLB.com with Guerrero's projections, over a 10-year span, via his Oliver system.

Projections are inherently cautious. Yet Guerrero's Minor League performance, at his age, is so overwhelming that Oliver sees great things ahead, even with a standard, median outcome. Still, to provide a wider range of the possibilities, MLB.com's Tom Tango also used the data to create optimistic (90th percentile) and pessimistic (10th percentile) stat lines for each season.

That gives us three projections for Guerrero for every year from 2019-28, showing his slash line, weighted on-base average (wOBA) -- a version of OBP that gives credit for extra bases -- home runs, and wins above replacement (WAR). Each projection also comes with a historic comp based on wOBA and WAR at that particular age.

There are two important things to keep in mind about all these numbers:

• Our projections start Guerrero with 500 plate appearances this year, work him up to 600 in 2021, then decrease by 5 percent in each subsequent year. That results in an average of about 500 per season. As with any player, health is a huge factor that could lead to Guerrero either underperforming or overperforming.

• Defense is something of an unknown with Guerrero, who faces questions about his ability to stick at third base. For the sake of this exercise, it was assumed that he does so and provides average defense. Should Vlad Jr. struggle with the glove and/or move to a less demanding position (or even designated hitter), that would negatively affect the impressive numbers below.

Video: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks to impress in the Majors

2019 season (age 20)

Optimistic projection: .330/.402/.560 (.414 wOBA), 27 HR, 5.7 WAR
Comp: Frank Robinson (1956)

Standard projection: .300/.365/.509 (.376 wOBA), 21 HR, 4.1 WAR
Comp: Bryce Harper (2013)

Pessimistic projection: .270/.329/.458 (.339 wOBA), 14 HR, 2.6 WAR
Comp: Adrian Beltre (1999)

Harper knows a little something about being a mega-hyped prospect, though by age 20, he already had played most of a full season and won National League Rookie of the Year honors. He followed that up with an even better year despite missing time with a knee injury.

2020 season (age 21)

Optimistic projection: .339/.412/.594 (.430 wOBA), 34 HR, 6.9 WAR
Comp: Albert Pujols (2001)

Standard projection: .308/.374/.540 (.391 wOBA), 26 HR, 5.2 WAR
Comp: Hank Aaron (1955)

Pessimistic projection: .277/.337/.486 (.352 wOBA), 18 HR, 3.5 WAR
Comp: Ryan Zimmerman (2006)

Relative to Guerrero, Pujols came out of nowhere, but he made an immediate splash in his rookie season with the Cardinals in 2001, as he quickly established himself as one of the best hitters in baseball. Pujols' combination of bat-to-ball skills, power and discipline is something Guerrero could come close to emulating if his Minor League performance translates.

Video: A look back at Pujols' historic 2001 rookie season

2021 season (age 22)

Optimistic projection: .345/.420/.622 (.443 wOBA), 41 HR, 8.2 WAR
Comp: Eddie Mathews (1954)

Standard projection: .314/.382/.566 (.403 wOBA), 31 HR, 6.2 WAR
Comp: Pujols (2002)

Pessimistic projection: .283/.344/.509 (.362 wOBA), 22 HR, 4.3 WAR
Comp: Scott Rolen (1997)

Rolen and Mathews both stuck at third base throughout their careers, and Rolen in particular distinguished himself there, with eight Gold Glove Awards to show for it. That would be an uphill path for Guerrero, though if he hits like Pujols, position and defensive ability won't be a huge concern.

2022 season (age 23)

Optimistic projection: .349/.426/.642 (.452 wOBA), 41 HR, 8.2 WAR
Comp: Mel Ott (1932)

Standard projection: .318/.387/.583 (.411 wOBA), 32 HR, 6.3 WAR
Comp: Miguel Cabrera (2006)

Pessimistic projection: .286/.349/.525 (.370 wOBA), 22 HR, 4.4 WAR
Comp: Jeff Bagwell (1991)

The Miggy comp is an obvious one. Cabrera was a touted prospect, made it to the Majors at 20, and quickly excelled as a big right-handed batter who could hit for average and power. He played his first full season as a third baseman at 23, after previously splitting time between the hot corner and the outfield. However, Cabrera has played mostly first since age 25, albeit while winning two MVP Awards and a Triple Crown.

Video: Must C Classic: Miggy passes Big Cat with No. 400

2023 season (age 24)

Optimistic projection: .350/.428/.650 (.456 wOBA), 41 HR, 7.9 WAR
Comp: Hank Greenberg (1935)

Standard projection: .318/.389/.591 (.414 wOBA), 31 HR, 6.1 WAR
Comp: Al Kaline (1959)

Pessimistic projection: .286/.350/.532 (.373 wOBA), 22 HR, 4.3 WAR
Comp: Ryan Braun (2008)

Braun probably won't make the Hall of Fame like Greenberg and Kaline, but he has put together a stellar career. In a move that perhaps will become relevant for Guerrero, Braun raked his way to NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2007, but struggled enough defensively at third base that the Brewers moved him to left field the next year.

2024 season (age 25)

Optimistic projection: .346/.427/.648 (.454 wOBA), 39 HR, 7.4 WAR
Comp: Jim Thome (1996)

Standard projection: .315/.388/.589 (.413 wOBA), 30 HR, 5.8 WAR
Comp: Darryl Strawberry (1987)

Pessimistic projection: .283/.349/.530 (.371 wOBA), 21 HR, 4.1 WAR
Comp: Nick Swisher (2006)

Thome is another early-career third baseman who made the move across the diamond, in his case after the 1996 season, which netted him a Silver Slugger Award. He went on to launch 612 home runs (eighth all-time) and cruise into Cooperstown on the first ballot.

Video: Jim Thome to enter the 2018 Hall of Fame

2025 season (age 26)

Optimistic projection: .341/.423/.639 (.449 wOBA), 37 HR, 6.9 WAR
Comp: Lou Gehrig (1929)

Standard projection: .310/.385/.581 (.408 wOBA), 29 HR, 5.3 WAR
Comp: Manny Ramirez (1998)

Pessimistic projection: .279/.346/.523 (.368 wOBA), 20 HR, 3.7 WAR
Comp: Mark Teixeira (2006)

If you're not a believer in Guerrero's defense, Ramirez could be a pretty good point of comparison. Manny's bat was never in question, and his 154 career OPS+ is tied for ninth all-time among right-handed hitters (minimum 7,000 plate appearances). But his poor and sometimes apathetic defense and baserunning also detracted from his overall value -- which still approached 70 career WAR.

2026 season (age 27)

Optimistic projection: .335/.419/.629 (.444 wOBA), 35 HR, 6.4 WAR
Comp: Chipper Jones (1999)

Standard projection: .305/.381/.572 (.404 wOBA), 27 HR, 4.9 WAR
Comp: Prince Fielder (2011)

Pessimistic projection: .274/.343/.515 (.363 wOBA), 19 HR, 3.4 WAR
Comp: David Wright (2010)

Jones was the NL MVP in 1999, but while he was able to remain on the field and effective through age 40, Fielder and Wright are reminders of how difficult that is. Both were stars in their 20s, and both subsequently dealt with serious physical problems that essentially forced them out in their early 30s.

Video: Fielder's most memorable MLB career moments

2027 season (age 28)

Optimistic projection: .330/.414/.617 (.438 wOBA), 32 HR, 5.8 WAR
Comp: Joey Votto (2012)

Standard projection: .300/.377/.561 (.398 wOBA), 25 HR, 4.4 WAR
Comp: Troy Tulowitzki (2013)

Pessimistic projection: .270/.339/.505 (.358 wOBA), 17 HR, 3.0 WAR
Comp: Anthony Rizzo (2018)

Everyone expects Guerrero to hit right away, but Tulowitzki and Rizzo are reminders that doesn't always happen -- even for top prospects -- and that patience pays. Tulo hit .240/.318/.292 in a 25-game debut for the 2006 Rockies, while Rizzo hit .141/.281/.242 in a 49-game debut for the '11 Padres. Both recovered to become stars.

2028 season (age 29)

Optimistic projection: .322/.408/.598 (.429 wOBA), 29 HR, 5.2 WAR
Comp: Albert Belle (1996)

Standard projection: .293/.371/.544 (.390 wOBA), 23 HR, 3.9 WAR
Comp: Harmon Killebrew (1965)

Pessimistic projection: .264/.334/.489 (.351 wOBA), 16 HR, 2.6 WAR
Comp: Jose Martinez (2018)

Killebrew didn't make his way to the Hall of Fame with his defense -- he bashed his way there. But he did play a fair amount of third base (791 games), including 44 games in 1965. That was actually a down year for the Twins slugger at the plate, as he launched 25 of his 573 career homers.

10-year results (ages 20-29)

Optimistic projection: 68.5 WAR
Comp: Eddie Mathews

Standard projection: 52.1 WAR
Comp: George Brett

Pessimistic projection: 35.8 WAR
Comp: Ryan Zimmerman

Here we have three third basemen, each of whom debuted in his age-20 season. The first two became Hall of Famers and the third a respected two-time All-Star and franchise cornerstone who has been hindered by injuries.

For context, Mathews' 68.3 WAR from ages 20-29 is a record for third basemen and ranks 12th among modern position players, according to FanGraphs. Brett's 50.7 WAR ranks third at the hot corner (also behind Ron Santo) and tied for 32nd overall.

If Guerrero moves off third and becomes an average first baseman instead, his standard projection would drop to 41.1 WAR during those years. That's still an elite number at the position, with Bagwell a rough equivalent. Relegation to designated hitter would lower that number a bit further.

Ultimately though, if Guerrero can handle the hot corner -- at least for a while -- that would be gravy. The real attraction is the bat, and if these projections are any indication, it may be a special one.

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.

Toronto Blue Jays

Inbox: How does Galvis signing affect Gurriel?

Beat reporter Gregor Chisholm answers fans' questions
MLB.com

What does signing Freddy Galvis mean for Lourdes Gurriel Jr.? With the Blue Jays rebuilding, shouldn't they be prioritizing younger players, instead of signing veterans who block their path?
-- Chuck T., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Gurriel is still going to be an everyday player, it just might not be in the role people envisioned a few weeks ago. Instead of experimenting with Gurriel as a permanent shortstop, the club likely will use him in a super utility role with starts all over the infield, and possibly even an occasional appearance at a corner outfield spot.

What does signing Freddy Galvis mean for Lourdes Gurriel Jr.? With the Blue Jays rebuilding, shouldn't they be prioritizing younger players, instead of signing veterans who block their path?
-- Chuck T., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Gurriel is still going to be an everyday player, it just might not be in the role people envisioned a few weeks ago. Instead of experimenting with Gurriel as a permanent shortstop, the club likely will use him in a super utility role with starts all over the infield, and possibly even an occasional appearance at a corner outfield spot.

:: Submit a question to the Blue Jays Inbox ::

In a lot of ways, this is the role the Blue Jays envisioned all along for the product of Cuba. Bo Bichette is generally considered the shortstop of the future, with his debut likely set for 2020, so there hasn't been a pressing need to make Gurriel a full-time player at a position he won't even have a year from now. Instead, 2019 could turn into training for his future role, which centers around defensive versatility and offensive upside.

Video: TB@TOR: Gurriel robs Cron with a slick sliding stop

How many infielders do the Jays need? How are they going to make room for both Brandon Drury and Gurriel when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. makes his debut?
-- Theo D., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada

This is the fallout from the Galvis deal I find the most interesting. By the start of May, Guerrero should be on the big league roster as Toronto's everyday third baseman. That will push Drury out of his starting role and leave him looking for at-bats on a team with only so many of them to go around. Finding playing time for one super utility player seems easy enough; finding playing time for two is a much different story.

Drury offers versatility with previous appearances at all four infield positions and the corner outfield spots. Gurriel's skill set is somewhat similar and that's what makes Devon Travis' presence a bit redundant on this roster. Unlike the other two, Travis is limited to one position and unless he has a hot start to the season, it's difficult to envision him sticking around because the Blue Jays can only carry so many infielders at one time.

Video: TOR@OAK: Drury snares Canha's liner to third in 2nd

Why Galvis? His career OBP is .290. Doesn't this mean we have another Kevin Pillar on our hands?
-- Vanessa P., Edmonton, Alberta
, Canada

The simple answer is that the Blue Jays felt the need to have at least one natural shortstop on the roster. Gurriel is learning the position, but his footwork needs a lot of improvement. Bichette likely isn't going to debut for another year and the preference was to keep Richard Urena -- and to a lesser extent Eric Sogard -- as Minor League depth.

Keep in mind that Toronto went through eight shortstops last season and at least four of them -- Russell Martin, Gio Urshela, Yangervis Solarte and Drury -- had no business being there in the first place. Don't think of Galvis as someone who is blocking a player like Gurriel, instead think of him as someone who gives the Blue Jays the ability to experiment with Gurriel and others all over the field, including shortstop.

Video: Freddy Galvis signs with the Blue Jays

When a free agent is signed during the offseason, someone on the 40-man roster has to be designated for assignment back to the Minors. Do these DFA'd guys automatically get a Spring Training non-roster invite?
-- Jojo A., Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Not at all. When a player is designated, it means the team has seven days to place the player on waivers, work out a trade or release the player. If the player clears waivers, he is then eligible to be outrighted to the Minors, which can only happen one time without permission during his professional career.

Take Danny Barnes for example. The Blue Jays DFA'd Barnes to make room for Galvis on the 40-man roster. Barnes cannot be sent to the Minors unless he first clears waivers. Every team in baseball will have an opportunity to make a waiver claim and the Blue Jays will then have to decide whether to let him go or work out a deal. If no team expresses interest, Barnes would clear and then be outrighted to the Minors. At that point, he would likely receive a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, but it's not guaranteed.

It's very clear that MLB does not want the All-Star Game to return to Toronto unless there's some sort of stadium "upgrade," which means a whole new ballpark in general. Does the organization realize that the stadium is still significantly outdated and if so, why not remove all of those tiny, uncomfortable seats?
-- Craig M.

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro has been pretty open about the fact that one of his top priorities right now is to come up with comprehensive renovation plans for Rogers Centre. The first priority was to finalize plans for Toronto's Spring Training complex in Dunedin, Fla., and with that process currently now well underway, the focus can shift elsewhere.

The plans really don't have anything to do with the All-Star Game, but the franchise is well aware that upgrades are needed. The biggest challenge will be to secure funding for a project that will cost multiple hundreds of millions of dollars to complete, but internally the club has already been looking at widescale changes. A new ballpark is not in the cards, but a comprehensive facelift should be. Expect this situation to become more clear in 2019 now that Spring Training has been taken care of.

What about John Axford? He has openly stated he wants to return to the Blue Jays as a player and a mentor. Do you think a reunion is possible for 2019?
-- Peter S., Delta, British Columbia, Canada

Axford's comments came during a recent appearance at the annual Baseball Canada banquet when he said, "That's where I want to be," in reference to a reunion with the Blue Jays. That doesn't do much for his leverage in negotiations, but this is one match that makes sense for both sides. Toronto likely isn't going to hand Axford a guaranteed job, but there is no such thing as a bad Minor League deal. The Blue Jays signed Axford to one of those last spring, with an invitation to Spring Training, and a similar offer should be made again this year.

Video: LAD@COL: Axford K's LeMahieu to preserve 1-run game

Given that the Blue Jays bought out Troy Tulowitzki and paid a big portion of Russell Martin's contract, should they not consider doing the same with Kendrys Morales to open up another roster spot for a younger player?
-- Anthony C., Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

Not at the moment, but it might happen later in the year. Martin was blocking prospect Danny Jansen, and Tulowitzki was at least partially blocking Gurriel. Morales isn't really blocking anyone at the moment. Teoscar Hernandez may eventually need more time at DH but the club is still hopeful that his work in the outfield can be salvaged and there's enough playing time to go around for that four-man unit of Hernandez, Billy McKinney, Pillar and Randal Grichuk. If Anthony Alford or Forrest Wall forces the issue with a hot start in the Minors, this narrative will quickly change, but Morales is safe for now.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Freddy Galvis, Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Vlad Jr. atop list of MLB's best prospects

MLB.com

The highly anticipated arrival of baseball's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline is nearing. And that's Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who retained that top spot on the MLB Pipeline's preseason Top 100 Prospects list, as revealed Saturday night on MLB Network.

Guerrero headlines a Blue Jays farm system that boasts four other prospects in the Top 100: Bo Bichette (No. 11), Danny Jansen (No. 65), Nate Pearson (No. 76) and Eric Pardinho (No. 98). Exciting times lie ahead for Toronto as these players make their way toward the Majors, with Guerrero and Bichette, in particular, already knocking on the door.

The highly anticipated arrival of baseball's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline is nearing. And that's Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who retained that top spot on the MLB Pipeline's preseason Top 100 Prospects list, as revealed Saturday night on MLB Network.

Guerrero headlines a Blue Jays farm system that boasts four other prospects in the Top 100: Bo Bichette (No. 11), Danny Jansen (No. 65), Nate Pearson (No. 76) and Eric Pardinho (No. 98). Exciting times lie ahead for Toronto as these players make their way toward the Majors, with Guerrero and Bichette, in particular, already knocking on the door.

:: Complete 2019 Top 100 Prospects coverage ::

The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLB Pipeline Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2019 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.

Guerrero has already captivated the baseball world with his incredible numbers throughout his Minor League career. The 19-year-old third baseman, son of Hall of Fame right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, slashed .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs in 95 games across four levels last year, the majority of which were spent between Double-A New Hampshire (61 games) and Triple-A Buffalo (30 games). Over his entire Minor League career, he's hitting .331/.414/.529.

Guerrero will likely be with the Blue Jays sometime early in the season, and everyone in and around baseball will be tuned in to watch the Major League debut of a player Callis says "might be the best prospect, all-around, since Alex Rodriguez, if you're talking about the upside."

Bichette, son of former Major League outfielder Dante Bichette, isn't far behind Guerrero, and could make his big league debut at some point in 2019 as well. The 20-year-old hit .286/.343/.453 with 43 doubles, seven triples and 11 homers in 131 games for Double-A New Hampshire last year. In three Minor League seasons, the shortstop is slashing .328/.385/.521.

Video: Top Prospects: Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays

Jansen, 23, got his first taste of the big leagues last season, making his Major League debut on Aug. 13. In 95 plate appearances for Toronto, the catcher hit .247/.347/.432 with three homers. In 88 games at Triple-A Buffalo, he posted a .275/.390/.473 slash line with 12 home runs.

Pearson, 22, was selected by the Blue Jays at the No. 28 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, and he began demonstrating his value early on, posting a 0.90 ERA in eight starts between Rookie level and low Class A Vancouver in '17. Last year, a back injury pushed his season debut back to early May, and in his first start, he was hit by a line drive that fractured his right forearm, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. He made six Arizona Fall League starts, giving up 14 earned runs in 20 1/3 innings (6.20 ERA).

Pardinho, who turned 18 earlier this month, signed with the Blue Jays out of Brazil in July 2017. The right-hander features a fastball that can touch 97 mph and a strong curveball as his best secondary pitch. He made his professional debut last year, posting a 2.88 ERA in 11 starts for Rookie-level Bluefield, striking out 64 while walking 16.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Toronto Blue Jays, Danny Jansen

Young Blue Jays pitchers see opportunity ahead

Recently added hurlers participate in Player Development Program; Pearson progressing in recovery
Special to MLB.com

TORONTO -- As the Blue Jays transitioned into their ongoing rebuild, general manager Ross Atkins made it clear that young and controllable pitching would need to be a cornerstone of the club's next phase.

Looking around the locker room at the Blue Jays' Prospect Development Program in Toronto on Friday, it's clear that Atkins followed through. Five young pitchers in attendance had been added to the organization since July, and all five have already pitched in Double-A or higher.

TORONTO -- As the Blue Jays transitioned into their ongoing rebuild, general manager Ross Atkins made it clear that young and controllable pitching would need to be a cornerstone of the club's next phase.

Looking around the locker room at the Blue Jays' Prospect Development Program in Toronto on Friday, it's clear that Atkins followed through. Five young pitchers in attendance had been added to the organization since July, and all five have already pitched in Double-A or higher.

Julian Merryweather, Hector Perez, Andrew Sopko, Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack suddenly have an opportunity in front of them. They've also got some high expectations.

When you're the trade return for franchise icon Josh Donaldson, all eyes are on you.

"It's MVP or bust this year," Merryweather said, laughing. "That's kind of the motto I'm going with this year. It's obviously big shoes to fill, but I'm just happy to be in the room with these guys here and be part of the future."

Sopko finds himself in a similar situation, coming over from the Dodgers for fan favorite Russell Martin.

To these young pitchers, Toronto could represent a quicker path to the Majors. The recent additions of Clayton Richard and Matt Shoemaker should help to solidify the back end of Toronto's rotation, but plenty more arms will be needed both in 2019 and beyond.

"It's just extra motivation for us," Sopko said. "Obviously, the ultimate goal is to be right here. The fact that there's opportunity, it gives you motivation."

Waguespack, the towering right-hander who came over from Philadelphia for Aaron Loup, is another name that Atkins brings up often when discussing rotation depth.

Instead of bringing in veteran arms to steady their rotations in the upper Minors, the Blue Jays may be able to survive on prospects alone. That's a new reality for the club, but one that was consciously chased.

"There is a good opportunity here," Waguespack said. "Obviously we have a lot of young guys here, or we will in the clubhouse, but it's just about going out and competing."

Pearson expecting workload limit
Toronto's top pitching prospect, Nate Pearson, missed nearly all of 2018 after a comeback liner broke his arm in May. The hard-throwing righty is back to full health and threw 20 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League, but still needs to be monitored in 2019.

"They're going to have an inning limit on me," Pearson said. "I'm not sure what it is and we haven't decided what it is, but there will be some sort of limit on me because I haven't built up to throw 150 innings yet."

Video: EAST@WEST: Pearson flashes 101 mph+ with regularity

Jackson thinking north-south
Relief prospect Zach Jackson racks up strikeouts and owns one of the organization's best curveballs, but walks have been a serious issue, as he allowed 51 over 62 innings in 2018. If he can find the zone more consistently, his fastball and curveball combination could really play up.

"We started looking a lot on the analytical side, being able to attack the top of the zone," Jackson said. "Especially the trend in baseball with high fastballs and curveballs, it really plays in my favour."

Keegan Matheson is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays, Julian Merryweather, Hector Perez, Andrew Sopko, Trent Thornton, Jacob Waguespack

Vlad Jr. not shying away from leadership role

'I'm excited to see all of the young talent coming up together,' he says
Special to MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays gathered their brightest young stars in Toronto this week for their annual Development Program, which the organization believes will advance the talent and leadership of its highly anticipated top prospects.

In what Blue Jays fans will hope is a sign of things to come, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stood in the middle of it all with a sparkling championship ring on his finger. Baseball's top prospect was one of several players in the room who starred on the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats' championship run in the Eastern League, and despite the endless accolades he's collecting as an individual player, the 19-year-old was eager to shift the focus.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays gathered their brightest young stars in Toronto this week for their annual Development Program, which the organization believes will advance the talent and leadership of its highly anticipated top prospects.

In what Blue Jays fans will hope is a sign of things to come, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. stood in the middle of it all with a sparkling championship ring on his finger. Baseball's top prospect was one of several players in the room who starred on the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats' championship run in the Eastern League, and despite the endless accolades he's collecting as an individual player, the 19-year-old was eager to shift the focus.

MLB Pipeline: Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects

Guerrero is familiar with leading in offensive stat categories, but now, the prodigious power hitter is becoming more comfortable with being a leader off the field.

"I know this is a very talented team," Guerrero said through the club's mental performance coach and translator, Tanya Bialostozky. "I'm excited to see all of the young talent coming up together and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together."

Video: Atkins having fun watching Guerrero Jr., Bichette

With the stars of the Blue Jays' 2015 and '16 playoff runs nearly all departed and the club in a clear rebuilding phase, all eyes are on Guerrero. It's been that way since he first stepped onto a baseball diamond, but he's finally reached the point that Toronto has been waiting for.

The next time that Guerrero sets foot in that locker room, it will be for his home debut.

"I'm very happy and very excited because I've played with a lot of them, so I know them," Guerrero said. "We are focused on putting up good numbers, doing a good job, and as a team coming up together, being successful."

Guerrero's shadow was hard to escape in 2018, but infielder Cavan Biggio's 26 home runs and 99 RBIs certainly made some noise. Biggio and Guerrero share famous MLB bloodlines and are now pushing one another toward the Majors.

"Vladdy is a very special player," said Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. "His mix of power and contact, his makeup, he's going to be a good fit right here in this locker room. A lot of guys are going to get along with him. He's going to listen. He's going to be very mature and humble about it, and I think that's what combines everything for him."

Guerrero's leadership was brought up unprompted by several teammates. Players like Biggio and Toronto's top shortstop prospect, Bo Bichette, say that Guerrero can lead in different ways, too.

Sometimes, he's the joker, laughing along like any 19-year-old would. Earlier this week, a group of Blue Jays prospects and coaches went to a curling club in Toronto and gave one of Canada's favourite pastimes a try, which led to plenty of banter in the clubhouse.

Video: Bo Bichette discusses his goals for 2019, Vlad Jr.

Other times, especially when he's in the batter's box, Guerrero leads by example. He's humble, like Biggio says, but he also knows that pitchers are wary of starring in the next viral Vlad Jr. home run video.

"When I'm up there, I know that I have to be patient and pick the pitch that I want," Guerrero said. "When I step in, my mindset is that I'm the best guy in the world and that it's the other guy who has to try hard."

Keegan Matheson is a contributor to MLB.com.

Toronto Blue Jays

Around the Horn: Vlad Jr. highlights 2019 infield

After promotion, top prospect expected to take over third in talented Toronto diamond
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays lost one of the biggest names in all of baseball on Aug. 31 last year, when they traded away Josh Donaldson. But the good news is that his soon-to-be replacement might become an even bigger star.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arguably is already considered Toronto's "Face of the Franchise" and he has yet to appear in a Major League game. That will change by late April, and once it does, the future will become the present for a rebuilding Blue Jays organization that features plenty of young talent.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays lost one of the biggest names in all of baseball on Aug. 31 last year, when they traded away Josh Donaldson. But the good news is that his soon-to-be replacement might become an even bigger star.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arguably is already considered Toronto's "Face of the Franchise" and he has yet to appear in a Major League game. That will change by late April, and once it does, the future will become the present for a rebuilding Blue Jays organization that features plenty of young talent.

As MLB.com continues its annual Around the Horn series, it's time to take a closer look at the Blue Jays' infield, where one name in particular looms large above all the others.

Video: Montoyo excited by Guerrero Jr.'s potential

Third base: Guerrero
Guerrero will likely start the season at Triple-A Buffalo, but he won't be there for long. If Toronto waits approximately three weeks into the season before adding Guerrero to the active roster, it will gain an extra year of control as the Dominican native would not be eligible for free agency until at least after the 2025 season.

Prospects normally should be treated with caution, but Guerrero defies all of the game's norms. The question doesn't seem to be if he will become a successful Major Leaguer, but whether he will become one of the game's greats. Hype meets reality this April and Blue Jays fans should enjoy the ride.

Shortstop: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
One of the reasons the Blue Jays released Troy Tulowitzki in December was to clear the way for Gurriel. Bo Bichette still seems to be the shortstop of the future, but he is not expected to arrive until late 2019 at the earliest, which gives Gurriel an early crack at securing the long-term job.

Video: TB@TOR: Gurriel smashes 2 solo homers against Rays

Gurriel clearly has the arm to handle the position, but his footwork still needs to improve. The 25-year-old Cuban is a candidate to eventually shift to second or corner outfield, but for now he's a shortstop, and he will look to build on a strong rookie season, when he posted a .755 OPS over 249 at-bats.

Second base: Devon Travis
Travis should open the year as Toronto's starting second baseman, but he might not be long for the job. Brandon Drury likely will shift from third to second once Guerrero receives his long-awaited promotion, and what that means for Travis' future in the organization is anyone's guess. The 27-year-old had his first healthy season in 2018, but it coincided with a drop in production at the plate. Travis' offense is his biggest asset, but he'll need a strong Spring Training and early April to secure long-term at-bats.

Video: TOR@BAL: Travis smacks a home run to left field

First base: Justin Smoak
Smoak returns for another year after the Blue Jays decided to pick up his $8 million option for 2019. The 32-year-old wasn't quite able to replicate his breakout 2017 season, but he still led the Blue Jays with 25 home runs and 77 RBIs last season en route to being named the team's top player by the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Video: TB@TOR: Smoak caps comeback with walk-off HR in 9th

Smoak, who is eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, will be a midseason trade candidate with prospect Rowdy Tellez waiting in the wings.

Utility: Richard Urena
Urena will compete against veteran Eric Sogard for the final spot on Toronto's bench. The 22-year-old Urena was once considered one of the organization's top prospects, but his stock has fallen after a pair of subpar years in Triple-A.

Video: HOU@TOR: Urena corrals a comebacker to get the out

However, Urena's performance in the Majors has been better than his performance in the Minors, and a utility role appears to be in his future. The only question is whether that begins on Opening Day or whether the club would prefer Sogard's veteran influence. There won't be room for both players on the roster unless one of the other infielders goes down with an injury.

Infield: Drury
Drury might be the biggest wild card on this list. The 26-year-old has made it known that he wants to be a third baseman, but the Blue Jays can only offer him that job for a few weeks in early April before handing it over to Guerrero. That's why most people expect Drury to eventually become Toronto's everyday second baseman, but another alternative is using him all over the field in a super-utility role. Drury has played six positions during his career -- so he has the versatility required for a flexible role, but he also wants to find a permanent home.

Video: TOR@SEA: Drury pulls RBI double down the line in 9th

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Brandon Drury, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Justin Smoak, Devon Travis, Richard Urena

In surprise move, Blue Jays take teen in Rule 5

Blue Jays confident in 18-year-old, who has never pitched above Rookie level
MLB.com

LAS VEGAS -- The Blue Jays gained one prospect, but they lost two others as the annual Winter Meetings came to a close Thursday morning with an eventful Rule 5 Draft.

Toronto picked right-hander Elvis Luciano from the Royals with the 10th overall pick, despite the fact that he is 18 years old and has never pitched above Rookie ball. The Blue Jays also lost a pair of promising pitchers, as Jordan Romano went to the White Sox and Travis Bergen went to the Giants.

LAS VEGAS -- The Blue Jays gained one prospect, but they lost two others as the annual Winter Meetings came to a close Thursday morning with an eventful Rule 5 Draft.

Toronto picked right-hander Elvis Luciano from the Royals with the 10th overall pick, despite the fact that he is 18 years old and has never pitched above Rookie ball. The Blue Jays also lost a pair of promising pitchers, as Jordan Romano went to the White Sox and Travis Bergen went to the Giants.

The Blue Jays will pay the Royals $100,000 for Luciano, and he must remain on Toronto's 25-man roster for the entire 2019 season, or else he'll be offered back to Kansas City for $50,000. That might seem like a stretch for a guy who has never pitched a full professional season, but the Blue Jays have gone with a high-risk, high-reward approach.

"Elvis is an exciting young arm that we've done a lot of work on and feel that any time you can acquire someone who has the chance to be a Major League starting pitcher, or a significant chance to be that, based on our projections, based on our scout looks," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said.

"The work that we did on him, these types of attributes are hard to acquire. The age, there are pluses and minuses to that. The pluses are the upside, the very high ceiling. The minuses are the risk and the unknown in how little he has pitched."

Luciano was available in this year's draft because of an odd loophole. Atkins didn't get into many specifics, but he said that Luciano's contract was voided earlier in his career because of a health issue. The Blue Jays did not disclose what the issue was, but it made Luciano available a lot sooner than other Rule 5 candidates.

The issue here is that Luciano doesn't even turn 19 until after the start of Spring Training. If he cracks the Opening Day roster, he would become the youngest pitcher in franchise history. In most cases, there would be concern that rushing this type of pitcher to the big leagues would cause serious damage to his overall development, but the Blue Jays seem to think that he is up for the challenge.

When the Blue Jays announced the pick, there was some initial speculation that a side deal might be in the works to keep Luciano in Toronto's system without having to place him on the 25-man roster. That does not appear to be the case.

"We wouldn't have taken him if we didn't think he had the stuff to [pitch in the Majors right away]," Atkins said.

"The stuff projects very well objectively and subjectively, so it will be a good opportunity for him. Our hope is that he is facing Aaron Judge and facing some of the better hitters in the game, and what an incredible challenge that will be. And we'd love to see that happen."

Romano was ranked Toronto's No. 28 prospect by MLB Pipeline. He spent most of last season with Double-A New Hampshire, where the 25-year-old went 11-8 with a 4.13 ERA over 137 1/3 innings. Romano projects as a starter long term, but the White Sox will likely slot him into the bullpen as a possible long reliever, similar to what the Blue Jays did with Joe Biagini in 2016.

Bergen wasn't ranked on Toronto's list of top prospects, but he was certainly trending in that direction. The 25-year-old lefty split last season with Class A Advanced Dunedin and New Hampshire, and he allowed just 12 runs (six earned) over 56 2/3 innings. The product of Kennesaw State likely will compete for a job out of the Giants' bullpen as a lefty reliever, which is something the Blue Jays severely lack.

"Not surprised," Atkins said. "Jordan cleared last year through the Draft. I think with Travis Bergen, the year that he had, from a performance standpoint, both guys are exceptional teammates, exceptionally hardworking, and teams did a great job in scouting them.

"We do a lot of second-, third- and fourth-guessing before we get to today. We were aware of the risks not protecting and ultimately prepared for that."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Perez among 5 prospects added to Jays' 40-man

MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made their final preparations for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft on Tuesday night by adding five Minor League prospects to the 40-man roster.

Toronto selected the contracts of right-handers Hector Perez, Yennsy Diaz, Patrick Murphy, Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack. Right-handers Jordan Romano and Jackson McClelland, left-hander Travis Bergen and outfielder Forrest Wall were among the notable omissions.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays made their final preparations for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft on Tuesday night by adding five Minor League prospects to the 40-man roster.

Toronto selected the contracts of right-handers Hector Perez, Yennsy Diaz, Patrick Murphy, Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack. Right-handers Jordan Romano and Jackson McClelland, left-hander Travis Bergen and outfielder Forrest Wall were among the notable omissions.

Teams had until 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night to add Rule-5 eligible players to the 40-man roster, which was the only way to guarantee their safety before next month's Rule 5 Draft at the annual Winter Meetings in Las Vegas.

Perez is the Blue Jays' No. 11 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and was a lock to be protected. Murphy's 2.64 ERA over 26 starts at Class A Advanced Dunedin made for an easy decision, while Thornton (No. 22) was essentially guaranteed a spot after he was acquired in Saturday's trade for infielder Aledmys Diaz.

Waguespack, who was acquired in July's trade of Aaron Loup, also made the final cut. At age 25, and with a full season under his belt at Triple-A, the Blue Jays clearly determined he was ready to contribute in the near term and could not be left exposed. Yennsy Diaz earned the other spot after going 10-5 with a 3.05 ERA in 27 appearances (25 starts) between Class A Advanced and low Class A.

Tuesday's deadline exposed the roster crunch the Blue Jays have been preparing for the last several months. Toronto used its remaining five spots on the 40-man roster and yet, some promising prospects had to be left exposed simply because there wasn't enough space.

The Rule 5 Draft includes players who have been in the Minors for at least four or five years, depending on when they signed. Teams pay $100,000 per pick, and the player must remain on the Major League roster for the entire season barring injury. If he doesn't, the prospect has to be offered back to the original club for $50,000.

Toronto's lack of space on the 40-man roster is a good problem to have, but it also comes with clear downfalls. Opposing teams likely will take a long look at Bergen, who was left exposed after posting a 0.95 ERA over 43 appearances in the Minors. The 25-year-old opened the year at Dunedin and later advanced to Double-A New Hampshire, where he struck out 43 over 35 2/3 innings.

Romano and catcher Max Pentecost were left off the Blue Jays' 40-man roster a year ago and experienced the same fate again on Tuesday. Pentecost, a former first-round pick, appeared in a career-high 89 games this year for New Hampshire, but also struggled at the plate with a .684 OPS. Romano posted a 4.13 ERA for New Hampshire and will be viewed as a reliever in the Rule 5 Draft.

Wall, Toronto's No. 24 prospect, was acquired in the deal for Seunghwan Oh. He has a lot of potential, and the Blue Jays don't want to lose him, but he's also still only 22 and has yet to complete a full season at Double-A. It's probably a stretch to think he will be ready for the Majors by the end of March.

Other Blue Jays prospects left exposed include right-handers Corey Copping (acquired in July for John Axford), Jon Harris (first-round pick in 2012) and McClelland (a 15th rounder in 2015), who has reached triple digits with his fastball out of the bullpen.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays, Hector Perez, Jacob Waguespack

Prospect Conine receives 50-game suspension

Son of former Major Leaguer violates Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Blue Jays prospect Griffin Conine has been hit with a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Major League Baseball announced on Monday afternoon that Conine tested positive for ritalinic acid, which is a banned stimulant under the drug prevention program. Conine will not receive any pay for the duration of his suspension.

TORONTO -- Blue Jays prospect Griffin Conine has been hit with a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Major League Baseball announced on Monday afternoon that Conine tested positive for ritalinic acid, which is a banned stimulant under the drug prevention program. Conine will not receive any pay for the duration of his suspension.

The Blue Jays selected Conine in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft. The son of former Major Leaguer Jeff Conine is ranked Toronto's No. 16 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and he has been considered one of the club's top power hitters in the Minor Leagues.

"Today it was announced that I tested positive for a banned stimulant in a test that was conducted during the 2018 season, and will be serving a 50-game suspension as a result," Conine wrote in a statement shared on social media. "I have spoken with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and my family, and I conveyed my utmost embarrassment for the careless decision that led to my suspension.

"I fully respect and support the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and I will not challenge the specific findings in my case. I will accept the consequences and do everything in my power to earn back the respect of the Blue Jays organization."

The 21-year-old outfielder appeared in 55 games for Class A Vancouver in 2018, and he slashed .238/.309/.427 with seven home runs, 14 doubles and two triples. Prior to that, Conine spent three years at Duke University, where he became the first Blue Devil since 2009 to hit 15 or more home runs.

"We are disappointed to learn of Griffin's suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Drug Prevention and Testing Program and believe it continues to help the game of baseball," Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim wrote in a statement. "We've spoken to Griffin, and he understands the mistake he made. We are confident that he has learned from this experience. We will continue to support him in his development and work together to maximize his potential going forward."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays

Where does Blue Jays' infield stand after trade?

Toronto determining Vlad's readiness, Drury's status, Tulo's role
MLB.com