Blue Jays super prospect Vladimir Guerrero feels ready for majors
Toronto Blue Jays infielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (27) makes a throw to first base in a drill during baseball spring training in Dunedin, Fla., on Tuesday, February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
John Wawrow, The Associated Press
Published Friday, April 19, 2019 7:47PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- While saying he's ready to make his major league debut, Toronto Blue Jays prospect Vladimir Guerrero didn't need a translator to insist he's not frustrated over still playing in the minors.
"No. No," Guerrero said before continuing in Spanish on Friday.
Interpreter Jesse Guerrero, who's no relation to the player, then completed what the 20-year-old bopper said by adding: "He continues to play 100 per cent. And when the time comes for the call, he'll welcome it."
As for being ready to make the long-awaited jump to the big leagues?
"He says you can see it's obvious. He is ready," the interpreter said. "But he says, he can't control what happens."
For now --and it might not be much longer -- Guerrero will have to remain at Triple-A Buffalo as minor league baseball's top talent, his potential free agency already pushed back a year following a spring training injury.
The son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, he joined Toronto at age 16 for a $3.9 million signing bonus. He is 7 for 17 with two homers, six RBIs and no strikeouts in five games for the Bisons.
Guerrero didn't get to play Friday night because the game against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was rained out.
He showed off his power Wednesday by driving a home run over the left-field billboards and into the parking lot in an 11-8 loss at Pawtucket on Wednesday. The blast was estimated at 441 feet.
This comes after a sensational 2018 season -- in four levels, he hit a combined .381 with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs. Unlike his dad, who had a propensity for swinging at pitches that bounced and others that were high, low and all over, Vladdy Jr. rarely chases -- he had 37 walks and 38 strikeouts last year.
Toronto faced a decision whether to put him on the opening day roster or deny him 15 days of service by starting him in in the minors, but Guerrero strained his left oblique on March 8. That ensured he would not accumulate 172 days in the major leagues this season and will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2025 World Series.
The third baseman returned to play four games with Class A Dunedin, before being called up to Buffalo last week.
Guerrero said he's not had any conversations with the Blue Jays regarding their plans, and instead leaves that to his agents.
Toronto assistant general manager Joe Sheehan said this week the team still is evaluating when to promote Guerrero.
"It could be any day; it could be a month," Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said Thursday.
Buffalo manager Bobby Meacham said he's noted signs of Guerrero's development, but added it takes more than that to play in the majors.
"The key isn't having that talent. The key is it translating to being substantial enough to carry you through the lows that they go through up there in the bigs," Meacham said.
"It's not the talent level that we're considering, it's the 'Is he ready issue?"' Meacham said. "Because we'd rather have them stay there than have to come back."
Guerrero's long home run this week was his latest exploit that drew a lot of attention.
"He didn't actually witness the ball go out there. His teammates told him," Guerrero's interpreter said. "He felt great, especially because he hit it where he wanted to hit it."
Last year, playing for Double-A New Hampshire, Guerrero hit a home run that struck a hotel building overlooking left field.
Guerrero's homer at Pawtucket didn't impress Meacham much. The manager, who spent six years playing for the New York Yankees, recalled former teammate Steve Balboni hit a ball even farther in the same stadium.
The key to Meacham is Guerrero gaining experience to be prepared to handle the on and off-field pressures of being in the majors.
Meacham was more impressed by how Guerrero proved he was learning the nuances of the game. In his Triple-A debut last week, Guerrero successfully completed a delayed steal by catching the opposing third baseman too far off the bag on an infield shift.
Meacham recalled how he mentioned this situation just once during spring training and was happy to see Guerrero was listening.
"It was his only time in that situation, and he did it right away. The third baseman never moved," Meacham said. "That kind of adds up into when you think a guy can do it (in the majors)."
For now, Guerrero is living in Buffalo on his own, and without his grandmother handling the cooking and laundry, as she did last year. Altagracia Alvino is currently staying in Tampa, Florida.
Guerrero said his grandmom will join him once he gets called up to Toronto. The backup plan is her travelling to Buffalo if he's still on the roster next week.
When the time comes for him to make the majors, Guerrero doesn't expect to experience any nerves.
"He said he's been waiting for the call all his life to get to the majors," Guerrero's interpreter said.
As for whether Guerrero prefers making his debut on the road or at Toronto?
"Wherever, wherever," the interpreter said. "He just wants to get the call."