Vlad Jr. launches rocket for first spring HR

March 11th, 2021

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- If ’s first home run of Spring Training in Thursday’s 10-6 win over the Tigers didn’t clear the wall, it might have blown right through it.

Guerrero launched a 412-foot liner to center field at TD Ballpark off a Michael Fulmer sinker, and it came with a 111.2 mph exit velocity. Even if your eyes weren’t on the field, the sound alone was enough to tell you where the ball was going.

This is the type of swing that the Blue Jays are looking for from Guerrero, who came into camp in far better physical condition as he looks to recapture the form that made him baseball’s No. 1 prospect entering the 2019 season. A majority of that focus lies in Guerrero’s stamina and ability to sustain his swing over 162 games, but Toronto has also been encouraged by his bat speed, which has always been special.

Any ball driven in the air is good news for Guerrero, too. Back in 2019, his average launch angle of 6.7 degrees ranked him 369 out of 398 hitters with 100 or more plate appearances. In '20, that average dipped to 4.6 degrees, placing him at 325 out of 352 hitters (50+ PA). Guerrero isn’t a burner on the bases, so to see him lifting the ball and driving it with such authority is impressive.

In Guerrero’s next trip to the plate in the third, he one-upped his own exit velocity from the homer, ripping a 111.4 mph single back up the middle to drive in Teoscar Hernández. It didn’t have the same lift as his long ball, but given that it came against a first-pitch slider from the Tigers' Ben Taylor, Guerrero is clearly seeing the ball well at this point in camp.

Guerrero rounded out his day by shooting a single through the right side of the infield to go 3-for-3 with four RBIs. This one had an exit velocity of 107.9 mph, capping off a day of rockets for the first baseman.

“He just feels good about himself right now,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “He’s in great shape. He had a great offseason. Not only that, in the intrasquad game we had yesterday, he hit two home runs. His last five at-bats have been hard-hit balls like that. We know what he can do, so that’s a good sign for all of us.”

Not a bad 48 hours for the young slugger.

Coming into Thursday’s game, Guerrero had a pair of singles in Spring Training, but the only real standout numbers through parts of five games were his three walks compared to one strikeout. Yes, Guerrero’s bat will be the main attraction throughout his career, but it’s always been his advanced plate approach that has set up these big blows.

Guerrero had some company early in the game, too, as star center fielder launched a leadoff home run to right-center field -- his first in a Blue Jays uniform -- and catcher wrapped a solo shot around the right-field foul pole in the second. Then, in the third, added a three-run shot of his own to left-center to round out the scoring.