Vlad Jr. named top 3rd-base prospect in MLB

18-year-old shows similarities to father at plate while impressing in Minors

January 23rd, 2018

TORONTO -- There's a level of uncertainty that comes with every prospect in baseball, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is about as close to being a sure thing as it gets.

Guerrero is shaping up to become the type of generational talent that Toronto has not produced since Carlos Delgado in the early 1990s. The accolades have been rolling in for more than a year, and the latest one arrived Tuesday, when Guerrero was ranked the top third-base prospect in the game by MLB Pipeline.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Guerrero for the past several years, but it was during the 2017 season that he really established himself as the future of the Blue Jays' organization. The question isn't whether Guerrero will make it to the big leagues, but when he will arrive and how dominant he will become once there.

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That's a lot of pressure for someone who is still just 18 years old, but Guerrero had better get used to it, because the attention is not going away any time soon. The good news is that as the son of a likely future Hall of Famer, he's used to this type of environment.

"Every day, my mindset is not thinking about when I'm going to play in the big leagues," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "I just do my best and try to help my team win that night. ... Every time I get to the ballpark, I'm thinking about doing my best. I'm not thinking about that stuff."

A year ago, Guerrero was No. 3 on the MLB Pipeline's list of top third basemen. His ascension to the top spot follows a season in which he dominated opposing pitchers. In 119 games between Class A Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin, Guerrero finished with 13 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .323/.425/.485 slash line.

Guerrero's mechanics at the plate look eerily similar to his father's -- the bare hands, the little twitch with his bat as the pitcher comes set. Add in the familiar face, and it's like going back in time. The expectation is that the young Guerrero will be able to generate a similar amount of power to his father, but the scary thing is he might do it with a much better recognition of the strike zone.

Guerrero isn't perfect. There are still areas of his game that can be improved, and the Blue Jays are adamant that he will not be rushed to the big leagues. An ambitious plan would see him arrive at some point in 2018, but a more likely course of action is a full season in the Minors with an eye toward debuting in '19.

Until then, the Minor League grind continues. There will be a focus on Guerrero's footwork at third and his game plan at the plate. The tasks will get harder as he reaches Double-A New Hampshire and eventually Triple-A Buffalo, where he will face more veteran pitching, but nobody really expects it to provide that much of a challenge. Guerrero appears to be that good and just as unique.

"I don't think we see eye to eye on everything, but that's the way baseball is," fellow Blue Jays top prospect Bo Bichette said. "People have their different approaches and their different swings. I think the one thing we do agree on is swing as hard as you can every single time. That's something we agree on, because if you're not using what God gave you, you're not going to be as good as you can be."