Not a free agent until 2025 at the earliest, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. looks to be the pride and joy of the Toronto Blue Jays. While not having a thing to play for this season besides their draft positioning, the team is working Vlad Jr. into their plans for the future as he is already rising up to become a franchise star.
Obviously having the family heritage set the table for him, and expectations for Vlad Jr. have been sky high ever since he was signed by the Blue Jays on July 2 of 2015 as a 16-year-old. Under team control for another two seasons after this one, Vlad Jr. is not even arbitration-eligible until 2022 at the soonest, which is music to the ears of the guys who run the payroll for Toronto. If he keeps playing at his current pace, Vlad Jr. may very well force the hand of the Blue Jays to have to pay him the largest contract in MLB history, which was set and broken a few times this season with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout all signing lucrative, long-term agreements for 10-plus seasons.
When any sort of young player joins the highest level of a professional sport, thoughts immediately go toward the ones who set the tone before them. For the sport of baseball, the likes of Harmon Killebrew and Mickey Mantle, then Robin Yount and Greg Maddux, followed by Ivan Rodriguez and Alex Rodriguez, and more recently CC Sabathia, Mike Trout and Juan Soto, the message of youthful players running the league is in full force.
Vlad Jr. fits that message now, as the 20-year-old Blue Jay is earning regular playing time and is a top contender for American League Rookie of the Year alongside Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brandon Lowe. With as much fame as there has been following him around since he signed, Guerrero has absolutely lived up to the billing.
Across 82 games, Guerrero is sporting a .279 batting average, 13 home runs and 49 runs driven in. He boasts an on-base percentage of .352 and a slugging percentage of .468, good for an OPS of .819. In a vacuum, those stats do not jump off the page, but when considering this player has spent the entirety of the season at the MLB level, not needing to be demoted back to Triple-A to work on anything, that speaks volumes.
With Guerrero plus Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette, two other sons of great ballplayers (Craig Biggio and Dante Bichette), the Blue Jays have a ton of promise to look forward to on their roster. While Biggio and Bichette are ticketed to be great players in their own right, Guerrero takes the cake on this roster and should be the face of the franchise for a long time.
How good can Guerrero be? That remains to be seen, but with the current career trajectory he is on, the limitations are non-existent and the goals are endless for who he can become.
In a nutshell? The next Mike Trout, pacing the MLB in most offensive categories, winning over many different fan bases while remaining true to the heart of what it means to be a baseball player. With how much love and energy his father put into the game, it is pretty understandable to think he can do the same throughout his illustrious MLB career, and we saw his star power at the Home Run Derby.
While Guerrero will come into his prime as Trout continues to be the star he is, this league will absolutely revel in the fact they have two transcendent superstars helping the sport of baseball fill stadiums, solidify primetime television opportunities and make sure interest in the sport does not falter.
Being north of the border may produce some difficulties, but it may also help bring a sense of appreciation to that country for this sport not seen since the days of Joe Carter. The Blue Jays know Guerrero is that guy for them already and that he can become even more of that guy for them as his career expands.
While certain aspects always curtail certain players early in their professional career, Guerrero looks to have a great head on his shoulders, a superb support system and the time put in by his family that a young kid getting fully immersed into the limelight needs at that time. The Blue Jays are hoping Guerrero keeps on the trajectory he is on, reaching past the stars and easily accomplishing his goals while bringing the sport of baseball back into the eye of America and all other interested areas across the entire world.