Buzz precedes Vlad Jr.'s arrival at camp

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

February 14th, 2019

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 would at least temporarily be named Toronto's starting third baseman. Atkins' comments at the start of camp drove that point home even further.

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"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.

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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.

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."