Also laud new Vancouver manager Casey Candaele, explaining: “You can’t be in a clubhouse that he’s in and not have a smile on your face.”
Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager Ross Atkins spent a portion of his Friday trip to the Vancouver Canadians’ annual Hot Stove Luncheon talking about two rookies.
One was Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. The other was John Schneider.
If you’re a baseball fan of any sort, you know of the 19-year-old Guerrero, the son of the Montreal Expos’ great with the same name. He’s a third baseman in the Toronto system expected to hit for both power and average, a talent so splendid that earlier this week Baseball America named him the game’s best prospect.
If you’re a C’s fan of any sort, you know of Schneider, 38. He was the manager of the short-season, single-A club based out of Nat Bailey Stadium for 2½ seasons, the last one in 2015. He’s climbed the Toronto ranks since and in November was named as part of the big-league club’s coaching staff for this coming season.
Schneider, a one-time minor league catcher in the Blue Jays’ system, has managed Guerrero and other rising prospects such as Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio the past two seasons, including last year with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. His rapport with them undoubtedly played a role in his promotion to the staff of new Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo.
“John’s exceptionally driven,” said Atkins, who was one of the guest speakers at the C’s shindig at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, along with former Toronto manager Cito Gaston.
“(John is) constantly learning, he’s constantly looking to improve. He has an incredible connection with players, coaches and front office. He has an ability to connect and relate across many levels and that’s leadership,” added Atkins.
“His passion for catching and expertise in that area will be a great complement, as will his knowledge of the hitters who are transitioning.”
Meanwhile, Atkins said Guerrero would “at some point,” be with the Blue Jays this coming season, staying clear of promising he’d start the year with the big club.
The Blue Jays took some flak from the Major League Baseball Players’ Association last year when they didn’t promote Guerrero when the rosters expanded in September, with the union claiming it was “service-time manipulation,” trying to extend the salary arbitration and free-agent processes.
The Blue Jays quickly denied it, saying they felt it was best for his development.
Guerrero, who spent 2016 at the rookie league level and then bypassed Vancouver in 2017 for advanced single-A, hit .402, with 14 home runs and 60 runs batted in with Schneider’s New Hampshire team in 61 games last season. He followed that up by hitting .336, with six homers and 16 RBIs for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons in 30 games.
“You don’t want to put timelines — before, after, late, soon — on human development in any aspect,” Atkins said. “Vladdy’s been great. He’s such a passionate individual. His mother, father, uncle, grandmother have done a remarkable job of raising such a fine young man.
“The way he’s handled success, the way he’s handled the setback of his injury, the way he embraces his teammates … what everyone is keenly aware of is how he embraces competition and the game of baseball. I’m excited to see him play in Toronto. I’m sure that day will come.”
Atkins also wouldn’t suggest any names on the C’s roster for this coming season. What’s interesting there is that the No. 4 and No. 5 Blue Jays prospects according to Baseball America — 18-year-old pitcher Eric Pardinho and 19-year-old shortstop Jordan Groshans — spent last summer in rookie-level ball. They could, of course, bypass Vancouver this season like Guerrero did.
“It’s so draft dependent and there’s such a steep learning curve for younger players,” he said of the Vancouver roster. “We could piece it together (today) and we might only get a third of it right.”
Vancouver will be led by the 58-year-old manager Casey Candaele, a former Montreal Expos’ infielder/outfielder. Atkins, 45, was a minor-league pitcher in the Cleveland Indians system in 1995 when Candaele was also an Indians farmhand.
“Casey’s awesome,” Atkins said. “You can’t be in a clubhouse that he’s in and not have a smile on your face. He’s as positive, energetic and as passionate about the game as any.
“The thing that’s most intriguing is that for someone with as much as experience as he has is that he’s exceptionally open-minded. He likes to think about things in a different way.”
CLICK HERE to report a typo.
Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org