HARTFORD, Conn. -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette took the next step toward reaching the Major Leagues on Thursday as the Blue Jays' talented twosome, both making their Double-A debuts, led New Hampshire past Hartford, 6-0, on the Opening Day of the Minor League season.Starting spots for each team's
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette took the next step toward reaching the Major Leagues on Thursday as the Blue Jays' talented twosome, both making their Double-A debuts, led New Hampshire past Hartford, 6-0, on the Opening Day of the Minor League season.
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Temperatures, which hovered around freezing for most of the day and continued to drop throughout the game, did little to cool down the bats of Guerrero and Bichette, Toronto's Nos. 1 and 2 prospects. Together they combined to reach base three times en route to scoring three of the Fisher Cats' six runs in the victory.
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"The last couple innings there got pretty chilly," admitted Bichette, MLB Pipeline's No. 13 overall prospect. "I'm really excited just to get out there, compete, play hard every day. You don't really get that in Spring Training. To be out there playing games that matter, I'm just excited to get things going."
The duo got things going even before the game began with a hitting display during batting practice that captured the attention of everyone in the stadium. Guerrero's BP was particularly impressive, as MLB Pipeline's No. 3 overall prospect generated booming contact from line to line with his explosive right-handed swing.
Many of Guerrero's BP blasts made Hartford's Dunkin Donuts' Park look small, and he elicited gasps from teammates, coaches and onlookers alike when he deposited a ball halfway up the scoreboard in left field with one of his final swings. It was a Herculean blast by all standards, with numerous Yard Goats officials noting that it was the first time they had ever seen a player hit one that high and far off the scoreboard.
He continued to showcase his 80-grade hitting ability in the game, too, as the 19-year-old third baseman connected on his first Double-A hit in his second plate appearance. Batting with two outs in the top of the third inning, Guerrero, who had walked in his first trip to the plate, laced a 3-2 pitch over the head of Hartford center fielder Yonathan Daza for a stand-up double. He would score New Hampshire's first run of the game one batter later, when Lourdes Gurriel plated him with the Fisher Cats' second straight double.
Guerrero also looked good in his final two at-bats. He showcased his athleticism along with his better-than-expected speed while reaching on an error in the fifth inning, and then nearly hit his first Double-A home run, ultimately a fly out to deep center field, two innings later. He finished the game 1-for-4 at the plate, also scoring a pair of runs to pace New Hampshire's offense.
"It's exciting -- both of us have had some success so far," said Bichette, the 2017 Class A Midwest League MVP who entered his second full professional season with a robust .372/.427/.591 batting line through 132 career games. "It's fun to watch [Guerrero]. He's a great player, and to be able to watch him and learn from him and see the things he does, he pushes me. That's all I can ask of him."
While Bichette didn't enjoy as much success at the plate in his first Double-A contest, it was still an impressive showing for the 20-year-old shortstop.
After grounding out in his first at-bat and popping up in his next trip to the plate, Bichette led off the fifth inning with his first walk of the season, following by his first stolen base, and then scored on Gurriel's sacrifice fly to center. He would ground out once again in the following frame, but finished his Double-A debut with his best swing of the night in his final at-bat, lacing a line-drive out to left field.
"I felt alright [tonight]," said Bichette, who went 0-for-4. "I think my mindset wasn't really how I wanted it to be in my first couple at-bats, but I think my at-bats got better as the game went on. Every day isn't going to be a two or three-hit game, so I just continue to have my mindset as consistent as can be. That's pretty much the goal."
The immense potential of Guerrero and Bichette was on display in their Double-A debuts, giving Blue Jays fans a glimpse of what's to come as the top offensive tandem in the Minor Leagues gets settled into Eastern League play. For now, at least, they're focused on the task at hand, knowing that their performance ultimately will dictate their path to the Major Leagues.
"Go out there and be aggressive -- that's how I play my game when I'm at my best," said Bichette when asked about his specific goals in 2018. "I want to make sure I'm aggressive every pitch and on good pitches … just trying to find a comfort level and get off to a good start."
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.