There’s almost no question that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will play in the big leagues next year. That said, where will he hit in the Blue Jays lineup?
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has continued his strong showing from Double and Triple-A this year, and has carried it into a dominant performance in the Arizona Fall League so far.
I think it’s pretty universally understood among Blue Jays fans that Vlad Jr. will make the final leap at some point in 2019, and maybe even at the beginning of the season. There’s no doubt that he’s ready for the challenge, and if you needed any more evidence from him in the AFL, he’s picked up a hit in each of his first nine games, and has become the talk of the league even as it’s youngest player.
The only reason that the budding star won’t be in the lineup on Opening Day would be to manipulate his service time and maintain an extra year of contract control, but even that will only keep him away from the Blue Jays for the first three or four weeks of the season.
That fact has me dreaming a lot about what the future holds for young Vladdy, and how he’ll adjust to the highest level. I have nothing but confidence in his abilities, even as a teenager, and I’m convinced he could have been an above-average contributor this past season even if we’ll never know for sure.
When I look at the potential lineup for the Blue Jays in 2019, it also has me wondering if Guerrero has the potential to be the team’s best hitter as soon as next season. Those bragging rights probably belong to Justin Smoak at the moment, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll even be back in Toronto for 2019, as he has just one year left on his current contract, and actually has a decent amount of trade appeal. As far as other above-average contributors this year, there wouldn’t be many that I would put in the category beyond Lourdes Gurriel Jr’s impressive showing in 62 games, or the turnaround seasons from Randal Grichuk and Kendrys Morales after horrific starts.
When you consider who else is likely to make up the Blue Jays lineup next year, it seems like a very real possibility that young Vlad could be one of, if not the best of the team’s offensive weapons, even as a 19-20 year old rookie. That also then leads me to wondering where he may hit in the lineup. A lot of that could depend on the philosophy of the next Blue Jays’ manager. We’ve watched John Gibbons start some of his younger hitters lower in the lineup, or employ a similar strategy with someone who is struggling at the dish. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if that’s how the Jays handle Vlad Jr. to begin with, but I can’t imagine it’s going to last.
It’s an awful lot of pressure to put on a rookie, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Vlad hitting in the middle of the order very soon after being called up, if not right away. I would be genuinely surprised if he’s not one of the strongest weapons in Toronto, and having a strong hitter behind him (ie. Smoak) would give him better pitches to hit.
Regardless of how the Blue Jays choose to employ him next year, the best hitting prospect in baseball history (that’s not an exaggeration according to his hit-tool rating) will bring a lot of excitement with him, and hopefully the beginning of the next successful generation of Blue Jays baseball.