John Schneider knows that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette are still teenagers, but the Dunedin Blue Jays manager is impressed by how mature the two Toronto Blue Jays prospects seem.
“When you talk to them it’s like talking to a 25-, 26-year-old, because they’ve been around the game,” Schneider said Wednesday when he joined Bob McCown on Prime Time Sports. “They have a very advanced approach at the plate.”
Guerrero Jr. and Bichette, who both appeared in the MLB Futures All-Star Game on Sunday, were promoted from the low-A Lansing Lugnuts to high-A Dunedin on Monday. While Schneider is new to managing the pair, he’s watched them in spring training and the fall instructional league.
Given their success in Lansing — Bichette slashed .384/.448/.623 across 70 games, while Guerrero Jr. slashed .316/.409/.480 across 71 games — Schneider said it’s easy to forget how young they are. But while they’re young, it’s obvious that the two have “baseball minds that not a lot of players have,” he said.
Schneider and his staff had followed the young prospects’ seasons before they arrived in Dunedin, and they were blown away by what Guerrero Jr. and Bichette had accomplished in low-A ball.
“Every box score you look at was 4-for-4, 3-for-4, 2-for-4 with a homer,” he said. “It almost was just comical to a point, especially with Bo.”
Bichette, 19, made his debut for Dunedin on Monday. On Wednesday, he collected his first hit in high-A ball, bagging a two-run home run in the sixth inning of a game versus the Tampa Yankees. In the eighth inning, Bichette picked up another hit — driving in teammate D.J. Davis with an opposite-field single to give his team the go-ahead run.
When Bichette was drafted by Toronto in the second round in 2016, the knock against the shortstop was his swing, which appears to use his entire body with such force that critics warned he would need to learn to tone it down.
“He’s very aware of what he’s doing with his body in space when he’s in the box, very aware of the mechanics to his own swing and what makes it work for him,” Schneider said. “It is a little bit unorthodox — there’s a lot of moving parts — but when he gets ready to hit, he has all the characteristics that you’re looking for, and a really good swing.”
Schneider added that Bichette may need to make some slight adjustments, but that his “uncanny” hand-eye coordination should allow him to respond as fast as necessary when he’s at the plate.
“He can react accordingly if a pitch is inside or a pitch is outside,” Schneider said.
Guerrero Jr., meanwhile, made his debut for Dunedin on Wednesday as a designated hitter. Asked whether the 18-year-old has the same tendency as his famous father to swing at any pitch he sees, Schneider said the third baseman shows a lot of discipline at the plate.
“He has a knack for hitting balls that some people can’t,” Schneider said, adding: “But the difference with him is, he’s selective. I think he had more walks than strikeouts in Lansing. So from that aspect he’s different than his father. Still possesses the ridiculous bat speed and tremendous power that his dad had, but he’s a pretty selective hitter. He knows what he’s looking for. He’s not afraid to hit with two strikes.”
Both Bichette and Guerrero will need to adjust to the differences between high-A and low-A ball — namely, according to Schneider, an increase in velocity and more unpredictability in certain counts.
“At that level, at the Lansing level, you’re pretty much going to see a four-seam fastball and fastball counts,” he said. “Here, pitchers start to sink the ball a little bit or cut it a little bit. So your approach has to be a little bit tweaked, maybe a little more fine-tuned.”
Schneider expects both players to adjust fairly easily.
“We’re hoping to just kind of pick up where they left off,” he said.