Blue Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. debuted in the major leagues to great fanfare in 2019. The son of a Hall of Famer, Guerrero earned his first promotion toward the end of April – only one month after his 20th birthday. He joined the Blue Jays despite limited experience in Triple-A Buffalo, where he garnered just 162 plate appearances from 2018-19. The sample size may have been small, but Guerrero nonetheless ran roughshod over the highest level of the minors, thereby convincing the Blue Jays he was ready for prime time.
Thanks in part to his stellar production at lower levels, Guerrero was considered an all-world prospect at the time of his promotion. Indeed, four different outlets (Baseball America, MLBPipeline.com, FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) ranked him as the game’s premier farmhand at the time. Guerrero ultimately didn’t make an enormous impact as a rookie, hitting .272/.339/.433 with 15 home runs in 514 trips to the plate, but that production’s still nothing to scoff at for a first-year man who was among the youngest players in the league last season.
Set to turn 21 on March 16, Guerrero figures to be one of the sport’s most fascinating sophomores in 2020, and the revamped Jays are no doubt hoping he’ll help key a resurgence for the club. For what it’s worth, the big-bodied Guerrero has come to camp in better shape this spring, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet wrote last month. The slimmer Guerrero’s now aiming to increase his launch angle, Andrew Stoeten of The Athletic recently relayed.
Guerrero’s mean launch angle checked in at just 6.7 degrees last year, while his expected weighted on-base average (.330, compared to a .329 real wOBA), average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage all hung around the league’s 50th percentile, per Statcast. However, heading into Year 2, projection systems are bullish. ZiPS, for instance, calls for a .285/.349/.497 line (121 wRC+) with 25 home runs in 571 trips to the plate. Those aren’t superstar-level numbers, but they would represent a nice step forward for such a young hitter.