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
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.
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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."
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.
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.