Widely considered the best prospect in baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero — is expected to make his debut for the Blue Jays on Friday in Toronto against Oakland. The event will, at least for the moment, end talk of the Blue Jays suppressing his service time and turn attention to the arrival of one of the most precocious hitting talents of this century. An oblique strain this spring slowed his major league debut, but it was likely to be delayed anyway, given the way MLB clubs have been controlling players’ service time.1 Even after last season, when Guerrero Jr. became the first player to hit .400 or better at the Double-A or Triple-A level in more than a decade, the Blue Jays claimed this spring that he wasn’t ready for the major leagues.
Guerrero’s .367/.424./.700 slash line in eight games this season in Triple-A seemed to give the Blue Jays a change of a heart, along with the fact that they control his bat through the 2025 season.2 Now healthy and in the majors, the 20-year-old has superstar potential with an offensive profile that Baseball America claims is in the “mold of Manny Ramirez,” and the magazine says “it’s not out of the question that Guerrero could develop into an 80 hitter with 80 power.” An “80” scouting grade is rare, residing at the top of the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest that Guerrero Jr. is an incredibly rare talent. Since 2010, no teenager — and few players of any age, for that matter — did what he did in the upper levels of the minor leagues last season. The slugger had one of the highest marks ever in weighted runs created plus (wRC+) — a metric that measures offensive efficiency and accounts for a league’s run-scoring environment and ballparks.
In 61 games at Double-A New Hampshire last season, at age 19, Guerrero posted a 203 wRC+. Since 2010, Guerrero Jr. is one of only six minor leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances to reach a 200 wRC+ in the upper minor leagues, and he was the only player to do so as a teenager. Yankees outfielder Giancarlo Stanton posted a 204 mark in Double-A in 2010 as a 20-year-old, and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant posted a 220 mark at age 22 in 2014 in Double-A.
What’s also remarkable about Guerrero as a hitter is how much his minor-league track record resembles his father’s.
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Even their swings are similar.
We wrote earlier this spring that the sons of majors leaguers have an advantage over the general population in reaching the major leagues. While some of that advantage is tied to genetic gifts and financial means, mimicking elite athletic movement patterns from a young age is also thought to be crucial.
The debut earlier this year of Fernando Tatis Jr. — son of former major leaguer Fernando Tatis — set a record for the number of sons to debut in a decade (45), according to Baseball-Reference.com data analyzed by FiveThirtyEight. Guerrero Jr. makes it 46, and his former Triple-A teammates Cavan Biggio (son of Craig) and Bo Bichette (son of Dante) could soon increase the number.
While Guerrero hits like his dad, he isn’t built like his dad. Vlad Sr. debuted as a lanky and athletic wunderkind, while his son’s weight is already a concern: He was measured this spring at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds. Perhaps that will push Guerrero Jr. off of third base, but wherever he plays, the expectation is that he’ll hit for years to come.
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