Vlad Jr. claims first career Gold Glove Award

Change of position paying dividends for first baseman, Blue Jays

November 1st, 2022

TORONTO -- has won the American League Gold Glove Award at first base, validating the young star’s growth in an area that was never expected to be his strength.

This is Guerrero’s first career Gold Glove Award, and he becomes the first Blue Jays player to win at first base, a position he has played full-time for just three seasons now. earned a Gold Glove Award last season at second base for Toronto, but prior to that, the last position player to win with the organization was Vernon Wells in 2006.

Guerrero’s defense has taken remarkable strides over four big league seasons, but this projection looked very unlikely in the early days. 

The 23-year-old came up as a third baseman, and while many of the physical gifts that made him the No. 1 prospect in baseball might have eventually translated into him being a solid fielder at the position, his rookie year was anything but smooth. Guerrero made 17 errors that season and particularly struggled with balls he had to come in on from the hot corner.

When the shortened 2020 season finally began, Guerrero was moved across the diamond to first. It was an aggressive move by the Blue Jays, who would have been justified in seeing how things played out over another season or two at third, but the organization determined this would be a far better fit, both immediately and in the long term. Now, that's paying off.

There were still growing pains at first base at the outset. Those came in the form of mental errors, with Guerrero sometimes breaking to his right for balls that should have been left for the second baseman, too eager to be involved in the play. The building blocks were there, though, and after taking a clear step forward in 2021, Guerrero’s fielding emerged as a genuine asset to the Blue Jays in ’22. 

The biggest surprise was Guerrero’s flexibility. He’s built naturally thick and sturdy, which helps him create his tremendous power at the plate, but Guerrero can drop right into the splits when he stretches to make a play. This is the athleticism that there wasn’t enough of from Guerrero in 2019 and ’20, but since he has improved his fitness, it’s shining through. This is also evident on the bases, where Guerrero has surprising speed, and around the bag, where he has quick, nimble feet. 

There’s still plenty of room for Guerrero to grow defensively, of course, but this successful move to first base has helped to solidify the Blue Jays’ infield, while providing a safety net for Matt Chapman and Bo Bichette making throws across the diamond. 

Combine this with Guerrero’s baserunning, and he’s showing the signs of being a more complete player than he was in his early years. But his bat will always own the spotlight as the one tool that determines his ceiling. In 2022, Guerrero hit .274 with 32 home runs and an .818 OPS, which are great numbers for most MLB hitters, but represented a clear step back from his ’21 season, when Guerrero hit .311 with a Major League-best 48 homers and a 1.002 OPS, finishing second in AL MVP Award voting. 

For now, though, Guerrero has added a Gold Glove Award to his mantle, as the young franchise cornerstone continues to round out his game.