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Vlad Jr. part of exciting wave of young stars

@KeeganMatheson
August 22, 2019

In the second Young Stars Week of the 2019 season, MLB is celebrating some of the game’s most dynamic emerging talents each day from Aug. 19-23. Today the spotlight is on 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. TORONTO -- Back in Spring Training, before Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrived in Toronto and brought

In the second Young Stars Week of the 2019 season, MLB is celebrating some of the game’s most dynamic emerging talents each day from Aug. 19-23. Today the spotlight is on 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

TORONTO -- Back in Spring Training, before Vladimir Guerrero Jr. arrived in Toronto and brought the hopes of a franchise with him, the young Blue Jays star was asked what he likes to do outside of baseball.

Guerrero paused. Before he could get his own answer out, teammate Rowdy Tellez chimed in from his nearby locker: “Baseball.”

“Baseball,” Guerrero agreed, breaking into laughter.

Guerrero, like the other second-generation Major Leaguers and young core pieces on this Blue Jays team, has lived his life around the game. Now, it’s his turn.

When Guerrero made his big league debut on April 26, he didn’t provide the immediate power barrage that everyone expected. That came later in the summer at the Home Run Derby, where Guerrero launched 91 homers. Though he finished as the runner-up to Pete Alonso, he announced to Major League Baseball that he’s here to fill upper decks with baseballs for years to come.

It understandably took some time for the 20-year-old to settle in before launching his first two home runs in his 14th game on May 14 in San Francisco. There have been dry spells since, but Guerrero has hit his way to an impressive .277 average and .818 OPS with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs over his first 95 games.

“Like I always say, we come here every day and work very hard,” Guerrero said. “We have a plan with our hitting coach [Guillermo Martinez], and we try to do it every day. Thank God it’s been working good so far, and we’re just getting better. Every day.”

Guerrero and his young teammates lean on one another, too. Fellow Latin players Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. remain in constant conversation with him throughout games. Guerrero credits their support with helping him adjust his approach at the Major League level.

It has also left an impression on his manager, Charlie Montoyo, who knew that Guerrero’s numbers would eventually rise. Even during cold stretches, Guerrero has still managed to keep his average up and help the team while working to find his power stroke.

“Now he’s really locked in,” Montoyo said. “He’s dangerous.”

Guerrero is starting to produce more and more like the overgrown kid who put up a .331 average and .945 OPS in the Minor Leagues. Few players in baseball produce at-bats that demand attention like Guerrero’s do, and when he does make contact, it’s loud. Already, Guerrero owns three of the five hardest-hit balls this season, all over 118 mph, according to Statcast.

Beyond his own teammates, like Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio, Guerrero knows that he is part of one of the most exciting waves of young talent that the game has seen. Guerrero is eager to keep up with the young stars across baseball -- names like Juan Soto, Ronald Acuña Jr., Eloy Jiménez and fellow legacy star Fernando Tatis Jr.

“I watch the highlights. I’ve seen all of them,” Guerrero said. “At pretty much the same time they’re playing, I’m playing. But I do watch the highlights of them.”

Keegan Matheson is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @KeeganMatheson.