Vlad Jr.: 'Now you guys are going to see the movie'

March 17th, 2022

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The star of 2021 already has the quote of 2022.

“What we did last year was a trailer. Now, you guys are going to see the movie,” Vladimir Guerrero Jr. said Thursday.

Everything Guerrero does in camp seems to drip with stardom. From the white Ferrari parked in spot No. 1 at the Blue Jays’ new complex to his rounds of batting practice that are so loud they’ll startle you if you’re not watching when he makes contact, Guerrero is the force that everything else seems to orbit around.

Guerrero has been Spring Training's main attraction for years now, ever since he was named the No. 1 prospect in Major League Baseball in 2019, wowing teammates and executives alike on the back fields in Dunedin. Seeing Guerrero’s power on display for the first or second time is something you don’t forget, but seeing it sustain itself and grow from year to year, it becomes clear that Guerrero’s runner-up finish in AL MVP voting last season was just the start of a remarkable career.

In some moments, it looks like Guerrero has the ability to step into the box and simply decide what happens next. That’s not how baseball is supposed to work.

Early on March 11, as players rolled into the Blue Jays’ complex the morning after MLB and the MLBPA agreed on a new CBA, Guerrero stepped in for his first rounds of batting practice thrown by bench coach John Schneider. He put on his usual display, but at the very end, when Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernández had finished their final rounds, Guerrero jumped back in. He wanted to see one more pitch.

He hit it over the batter’s eye.

A few hours later, Guerrero was part of a group of hitters taking live batting practice when closer Jordan Romano stepped onto the mound. Romano had a 2.14 ERA last season with 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings, making him one of the game’s most effective back-end relievers. Guerrero took two at-bats against Romano, each lasting just one pitch.

Guerrero launched the first pitch he saw off the wall in right-center field. He hit the second pitch to almost the same place, maybe harder. Each time, as he finished his follow-through, Guerrero calmly stepped across home plate and walked back toward the dugout. He’d done what he expected to do.

On Thursday, it was Kevin Gausman who drew the short straw and got to face Guerrero. After Guerrero watched three balls go by, the fourth pitch of the at-bat was called a strike. Guerrero turned to the group of coaches behind the fence, grinning while he held up four fingers, asking for ball four. Pitching coach Pete Walker came back and said, “No, it’s a strike,” so Guerrero dug back in.

On the next pitch, Guerrero launched a letter-high fastball to left field that couldn’t possibly have been hit harder.

Just how good can Guerrero be in 2022? In '21, his .311 average with 48 home runs, 111 RBIs and a 1.002 OPS was one of the best offensive seasons in Blue Jays history, and it took the ultimate rarity of Shohei Ohtani to pry the AL MVP Award away from Guerrero. If Guerrero can put together his ’21 season 10 or 12 times, that would be a Hall of Fame career, so this isn’t exactly a situation where Guerrero needs to take another giant step. Even if he can sustain that level, he’ll be one of the game's brightest stars.

Guerrero will trade those accolades to win, though. When the Blue Jays were eliminated from postseason contention on the final day of the 2021 regular season, Guerrero sat in the dugout and stared at an empty field. Normally, he would have flown home to the Dominican Republic that night, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. He stayed in Toronto three more days, reflecting on what could have been and looking ahead to what he hopes is a championship season in ’22.

“That’s our goal, to get to the World Series and win the World Series,” Guerrero said through club interpreter Hector Lebron. “There’s 29 other teams trying to do the same thing. That’s our goal for the year, though. We’re going to stay focused, work hard for everybody on the team. If we get there, we get there, and hopefully we’ll win it.”

Combine winning with Guerrero’s success, though, and calls for a contract extension will only grow louder. Guerrero is the face of baseball in Toronto, and in the past couple of years, we’ve seen Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wander Franco, among others, agree to massive extensions at young ages.

Guerrero, of course, came prepared with an answer that didn’t reveal too much.

“All I know is to hit fastballs and curveballs,” Guerrero said. “The rest, I leave to my agent.”