We knew this moment would come. We just didn’t know it would happen this soon. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will make first base his primary position moving forward, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter).
After one full season at third base, the 21-year-old power phenom will focus his attentions on becoming a primary first baseman and designated hitter. Vlad committed 17 errors in 94 starts at the hot corner in 2019. The advanced metrics didn’t care much for his effort either (-9 DRS, -9.4 UZR). Statcast’s Outs Above Average pegged Vlad last in the league (tied with the Twins’ Jorge Polanco) with -16 OAA.
Offensively, there’s little doubt that Vlad Jr. has one of the most prodigious power strokes in the game, even at such a young age, and this move allows him to focus on what he does best. Vlad Jr. stroked 15 home runs over 514 plate appearances while slashing .272/.339/.433 as a 20-year-old. The move across the diamond was an eventuality, and in some ways, it makes sense to make the move as soon as possible rather than spend development time at a position without a long-term future. It’s certainly possible Guerrero Jr. ends up as a primary designated hitter, but he’ll try his hand at first in 2020.
With Vlad Jr. shifting over to first, Travis Shaw expects to get most of the playing time at third, per Nicholson-Smith. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hasn’t played any third, but the infielder/outfielder could presumably pick it up, while second baseman Cavan Biggio played a little bit at the hot corner in Triple-A. Breyvic Valera is also capable of handling third.
Shaw, signed as a free agent, is coming off a bizarrely disappointing showing in 2019 as he hit just .157/.281/.270 across 270 plate appearances with the Brewers. That allowed the Blue Jays to snag him on the cheap, as they’ll hope he rebounds to something closer to his career line of .243/.327/.451.