Inbox: Can Vlad. Jr.'s inconsistency be fixed?

Beat reporter Keegan Matheson answers questions from Blue Jays fans

September 16th, 2019

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are coming off back-to-back series wins against the Red Sox and Yankees at Rogers Centre, an encouraging sign late in the season for a team that’s gone young and focused on development in 2019.

With one road trip remaining, beginning in Baltimore on Tuesday and carrying on to New York for the weekend, before the final homestand of the season, these are your questions about the 2019 season and the coming months.

It seems Vladdy gets in his head a lot and it shows in his ABs. What are the plans over the time off/spring season to help him play at a consistent level? Granted I know he is young and is in his first season in the bigs.
-- @PinkValkyrie

There have certainly been frustrations for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. this season, and it’s shown at times. When Guerrero slumped a couple of months ago, he credited a close group of teammates -- particularly Freddy Galvis, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez -- for helping him work through it.

Now, Guerrero has hit another cold patch. Through 11 games in September, he is hitting just .167 with a .455 OPS. The telling sign for Guerrero will always be his plate approach, though, and his 10 strikeouts with just three walks over that stretch are revealing. That plate approach, which is exceptional when he is on, is what sets up his tremendous offensive potential. Guerrero needs that back, because there have been some un-Vladdy swings of late.

Fatigue could be a factor. This is Guerrero’s first September in pro baseball, as the Minor League season ends earlier. This offseason, expect him to have an increased focus on his body along with his regular training. That’s a major factor for the 20-year-old going forward, especially over the course of a 162-game season.

So what is up with the Alford situation? What’s up with the outfielder situation in general? Are there any good infielders they could convert to the outfield or do you think it’s going to have to come via trade/signings?
-- @brightskies99

Anthony Alford, like Jonathan Davis, could benefit from one last showcase before a potential roster squeeze entering 2020. That’s difficult, though, when the Blue Jays are still trying to see exactly what they have in players like Derek Fisher and Billy McKinney, who are ahead of Alford on the depth chart.

Perhaps the addition of a 26th roster spot will help Alford in 2020, but he’s now 25 and still looking to establish himself in the Major Leagues. Toronto has outfield depth -- so I wouldn’t expect a major addition or a conversion project -- but some of that depth obviously needs to turn into high-end talent. Alford has athletic gifts like few others in the organization, but the clock is ticking.

Should the Blue Jays have Scott Boras on speed dial this winter? Desperate need for a quality/impact bat = Nicholas Castellanos (no QO), Mike Moustakas (no QO), and for quality pitching = Dallas Keuchel (no QO), Gerritt Cole (worth a Max Scherzer contract IMO).
-- Brad (e-mail)

Boras will be on speed dial for all 30 teams, which is what makes it difficult. The Blue Jays have been consistent with their message that, when it’s time to spend, they’ll spend, but when is the right time in their eyes?

Any team would love a Cole, but will Toronto, which is still building up its young core, be the most motivated team in all of baseball at that price point? Expect the Blue Jays to target pitching aggressively this offseason, at multiple tiers of free agency, but taking a big swing on a top arm would still be surprising at this point. A year from now, that could be a much different story.

What does the Blue Jays' infield look like by the end of 2021, including designated hitter?
-- @theriddler6

The end of 2021 is a good place to look, because that’s three full seasons into this current phase, which began with the arrival of Guerrero. Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire should be the long-term catching tandem with Bo Bichette still at shortstop. Beyond that, it gets cloudier.

It’s very possible that Guerrero could be at first base by then, or at least mixing in some reps. I’ll leave Cavan Biggio at second base, with the possibility that No. 13 prospect Kevin Smith rebounds from a tough 2019 season to factor into the picture at both second and third. Richard Urena could, as well, but he’ll need to show something soon. Santiago Espinal is a versatile name to keep in mind, too. At third, will No. 2 prospect Jordan Groshans (No. 69 in MLB) be ready at age 21? Designated hitter is likeliest to be an external candidate, along with a revolving door of position players.

With rosters going up to 26 players next year, do you think the Blue Jays are likely to stay with a three man bench for a bigger bullpen, or carry an extra position player?
-- @macmiljohn

So much of this will depend on the maximum number of pitchers allowed on a roster, which is still to be determined. The Blue Jays have prioritized versatile position players and have leaned on the opener -- although that isn’t Plan A entering a new season -- so another pitcher could be the play. It also gives clubs more room to roll the dice on a Rule 5 Draft pick like Elvis Luciano, an experiment that Toronto is about to pull off in 2019.