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Vlad Jr. on rookie year: 'I'm going to get better'

@baseballexis
October 24, 2019

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s rookie season offered a glimpse of his future for the Blue Jays, highlighted by the potential for what could be but also shedding some light on where improvements are necessary for that to come to fruition. Numerically, the 20-year-old third baseman posted a 2.1 WAR per Baseball

Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s rookie season offered a glimpse of his future for the Blue Jays, highlighted by the potential for what could be but also shedding some light on where improvements are necessary for that to come to fruition.

Numerically, the 20-year-old third baseman posted a 2.1 WAR per Baseball Reference in 123 games and 464 at-bats. Guerrero hit .272/.339/.433 with 15 home runs, 26 doubles, two triples, 52 runs scored and 69 RBIs. He came out stronger than he finished but impressed along the way.

“He’s the best hitter the Blue Jays have; he’s so natural,” one professional scout said. “He was really chasing sliders a lot, particularly behind in counts at the end of the season, but he reminds me of Miggy [Cabrera], and he’s going to hit for average and power.

“He’s a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, and defensively he actually played fairly well. He’s got really good hands and pretty good feet, and a cannon arm. The biggest issue is his body.”

Guerrero’s body has been a topic of conversation throughout his career, but the man listed at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds had never had it scrutinized more than at the big league level this year, and he felt it. Guerrero understands the room for improvement, and the young slugger's work has already begun.

Making the grades
Describing himself as “thick” in every possible instance as he made his way through the Major League Scouting Bureau’s version of an evaluation, Guerrero noted that he lost more than 25 pounds during his rookie campaign. He believes the work he put in throughout the season will help him as he continues to focus on his conditioning through the offseason.

“I’ve definitely been working very hard during the season,” Guerrero said, switching back and forth between answering in English and gleaning some assistance from team interpreter Hector Lebron. “I’ve been doing everything that I’ve been asked to do. And I learned that in order for me to stay up here for 162 games, I need to keep putting in that work and feel really good, especially during the season.”

Another place where Guerrero will continue to focus his efforts is at the hot corner, where despite giving himself an average present grade he feels he can improve the most.

“Definitely because I know that I can do better than I did,” he said. “I’m not satisfied with the way I did. I’m not satisfied, because I know I can do better, and I’m going to get better. Defensively, since the beginning [of the season] to now, I got a lot better, but I don’t want to stay like that. I need to get better, I want to get better.”

What the scouts say
“He runs better than you’d think he would, he’s a better athlete, but he’s a spectacular bat,” one National League evaluator said. “It’s his hand action, his bat speed -- he’s at another level with all that, so he should be a superstar.

“But if he was in really good shape, he could stay at third base for a while because he’s got really good hands there and doesn’t move badly. He’s got good feet and good first-step quickness, and he has a really good feel for the game. His instincts are very, very good, and he has fun playing.”

While Guerrero admits that some of the most fun he had this season was hitting 91 homers at Cleveland's Progressive Field during the 2019 T-Mobile Home Run Derby, the man who hit all of his homers left of center made sure to mention, “No oppo power,” as he went through his self report. When grading his power, he emphasized that he believed his tool was presently average, but he also knew he had the potential to be among the top power hitters in the game.

Continuing to work his way through the evaluation, the word “explosive” also caught Guerrero’s eye among the running style descriptors, leading him to ask, “What’s the opposite of explosive?” before settling on “heavy feet.” His initial reaction was to keep his future run grade the same as his present grade, before deciding he could get better at that, too.

Continued development
“I’m basically going to work on everything,” Guerrero said. “Defensively, of course, and of course I’m going to work on my body, too. … This [report] doesn’t tell you that every day that I go out there, I try and learn something new. I’ve learned a lot of things, things late in the game -- how to concentrate and do things late in the game -- like running the bases, and things like that, that’s what I’ve been learning all year.”

And that education will continue to help Guerrero as he utilizes an improved mindset to help him continue the success he has found throughout his life.

“Being prepared, mentally prepared is what got me here,” Guerrero said. “Off the field, I try to always be mentally prepared. I think that’s the key of making it to the big leagues, and it always worked for me in the Minor Leagues, so I just need to keep doing that.”

Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.