The Toronto Blue Jays created some buzz earlier this week by signing highly-touted international free agent Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
If the name sounds familiar, there’s good reason for it. Guerrero Jr. is the son of nine-time all-star and 2004 American League MVP Vladimir Guerrero.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Blue Jays’ new outfield prospect:
Name: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Height: 6-foot-0 | Weight: 220 pounds
What’s his skill set?
Guerrero’s best asset is his bat. He has incredible raw power for his age and his overall hitting ability — scouts refer to it as a premium bat — has impressed MLB executives for quite some time.
“Since I’ve been doing this, I haven’t seen a kid with that power,” Blue Jays director of Latin American operations Ismael Cruz told Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith earlier this week. “He has pitch recognition for the age and this kid has been playing ball all his life.”
Guerrero, who grew up in Montreal, is currently listed as an outfielder, but many within the industry believe his body type could be better suited for first base. He does not possess great speed and does not offer the rocket arm that made his father such an impressive MLB outfielder.
“If he maintains his body and puts a little bit more time and energy into improving his defence, he has a chance to stay in the outfield,” Ben Badler of Baseball America said during an interview on Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Friday. He’s not his dad (with) an arm that’s at the top of the scale. (He has) enough athleticism for his size. He could be able to play left or right (field) if the arm strength improves.”
As Badler explained, his bat is going to be so good at the end of the day that his position should not be a major concern to the Blue Jays.
“He has a better bat now than what his father had at that age, and it’s not a swing that’s going to go away,” Cruz said. “He’s had it for a long time and he’s always hit.”
Impressive work ethic
Guerrero Jr. was trained in the Dominican Republic by his uncle and former MLB outfielder Wilton Guerrero and it seemed to rub off on the 16-year-old outfielder. His hard working mentality and drive to succeed stood out to a handful of MLB teams, who considered him to be the top international free agent in this year’s class. Baseball America ranked him No. 1 while MLB.com had him No. 4 on their Top 30 International Prospects list.
“This kid is not about the money,” Cruz told Nicholson-Smith. “He has a lot of money. He plays because he likes it. He wants to be better than his father.”
His MLB.com profile described Guerrero Jr. as “talented, but still a grinder.”
Blue Jays go all-in to get Guerrero
The Blue Jays had to give up a first-round draft pick in order to sign catcher Russell Martin as a free agent, so the team had no problem allocating significant resources on a player they considered to be an elite-hitting difference maker. Under GM Alex Anthopoulos, the team has routinely spent high draft picks on pitchers so it was a no-brainer — in their estimation — to acquire a highly-touted position player.
“(There was) lots of competition for him,” Badler told Jeff Blair and Kevin Barker on Baseball Central. “(He’s) not an under-the-radar guy. (I) remember him at a showcase when he was 14 years old. Lots of teams had him really high on their list. Teams have bonus pools that they stay within and the Blue Jays (are) putting all their eggs in one basket. The Mets were trying to spend all their pool money on him, too.”
Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi wrote a highly-detailed profile explaining the Blue Jays’ pursuit of the Dominican slugger on Thursday evening.
In order to sign Guerrero Jr., the club had to exceed their assigned spending limit and then trade away two minor-league players to the Los Angeles Dodgers in order for them to help reduce the tax penalty that the club must pay to Major League Baseball.
Guerrero Jr. received a signing bonus of $3.9 million, which is one of the highest in club history (the highest being shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria at $4 million).