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The season that was: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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A look at Vlad’s 2019 season

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was called up on April 26th, we were more than ready to see him.

We were ready for him a year before that. He’s been at the top of our top 40 prospect list for the last three years and we’ve been impatiently waiting for him all this time.

In 2018 he hit .381/.437/.636 in 95 games in the minors, split between AA and AAA (with a few rehab games thrown in). We wanted him up. When Josh Donaldson was hurt, we wanted him up even more. But service time issues kept him in the minors. Baseball needs to find a way to not give teams incentives to keep players in the minors for non-baseball reasons.

We had high expectations. I had more than one argument on Twitter with people telling me he was going to be better than his dad. Since scouts rated him so highly, some figured he’s a lock to be better. In his 2018 prospect blurb I said:

Well, his dad is in the Hall of Fame. Betting an 18 year old to have a better career than a Hall of Famer is a silly thing to do. But, Vlad Jr looks to have a better eye at the plate than dad had. And he seems to have his father’s power. But, his dad played 16 years and had 449 home runs, so if you made me bet, I’d take dad.

And I still think betting on a player that young to make the Hall of Fame is a stretch, but I’m thinking he has a great career.

Matt made the case for tempering expectations. He forecast the chance that his rookie year wouldn’t live up to expectations and that folks might overreact:

At this point, Vlad could turn in a very good rookie season, fall well short of the projected slash line, and it would probably be considered a failure. The word overhyped will be tossed around, that if this is upon whom the franchise has pinned its hopes, the Jays better find a new plan. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he struggles for an extended period (by this I mean a couple weeks), there will be some hyperbolic calls of him being a bust.

Hot take overreaction is going to happen regardless, and it is best ignored. But the point I want to make now, even if it rapidly mooted by Vlad tearing the cover off the ball, is that even a pedestrian rookie season (by the standards of the projections and expectations) would not be indicative that he’s likely to fall short of future stardom.

The point is, there’s often an adjustment period for even the greatest. Baseball has a way of humbling even its immortals. At least for a little while anyway.

Looking pretty spot on at the moment Matt.

Standard Batting
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ GDP HBP
123 514 464 52 126 26 2 15 69 0 1 46 91 .272 .339 .433 .772 106 17 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/7/2019.

Baseball Reference has him at a 2.1 WAR. FanGraphs didn’t like him near as much, 0.4 WAR, making him worth $3.3 million to the Jays.

He had a .329 wOBA and a 105 wRC+.

Vlad’s walk rate was 8.9% (team average 8.4%) and his strikeout rate was 17.7% (team average 24.9%).

His line drive rate was 17.3% (team average 21.0%), ground ball rate 49.6% (team average 39.8%) and fly ball rate 33.1% (team average 39.2%). His fly balls were leaving the park 12.1% of the time (team average 15.8%).

Hard contact rate was 34.9% (team average 37.9%) and soft contact rate was 20.8% (team average 17.9).

Vlad’s BABIP was .308 (team average .280).

He hit right-handed pitching (.293/.355/.467) much much better than left-handed pitching (.215/.297/.346). That one surprises me. I’m thinking a one-year thing, but we’ll see.

And he hit much much better on the road (.303/.369/.496) than at home (.239/.307/.370). Another that has me wondering if there is a reason, or if it is a one year blip.

With RISP Vlad hit .267/.304/.440.

He hit better in the second half (.293/.349/.452) than the first half (.249/.328/.413).

Vlad by month:

  • April: ..214/.353/.286 with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts in 4 games.
  • May: ..253/.317/.484 with 6 home runs, 9 walks and 19 strikeouts in 25 games.
  • June: .255/.324/.372 with 2 home runs, 9 walks and 19 strikeouts in 24 games.
  • July: .284/370/.455 with 3 home runs, 12 walks and 16 strikeouts in 24 games.
  • August: .341/.406/.571 with 4 home runs, 9 walks and 14 strikeouts in 25 games.
  • September: ..232/.26/.293 with 0 home runs, 4 walks and 19 strikeouts in 20 games.

If every month could have been like August he would have had the season we expected. I thought he tired at the end of the season, maybe mentally as much as physically.

No a surprise, he hit far better in wins (.338/.391/.573) than in losses (.215/.294/.315).

On defense? UZR didn’t like him, -14.6/150. I thought he was getting better as the season went on, but that’s not a good number. He made 17 errors, 13 fielding, 4 throwing, for a .936 fielding average. I’m curious to see if he improves next year.

FanGraphs wasn’t a fan of his base running either, putting him at a -6.6 on the base paths. He seems way too aggressive. I would imagine he could improve on that.

Where Vlad hit in the batting order:

  • Second: 48 times.
  • Third: 26 times.
  • Fourth: 20 times.
  • Fifth: 23 times.
  • Sixth: 1 time.

I would have been more happy if Charlie picked a spot for him and moved the other guys around him.

His longest hitting streak was 7 games, longest on base streak was 17 games. The longest he went without a home run was 27 games, to the end season. You might remember he had one pulled back in on September 19th vs the Orioles. Austin Hays made an amazing catch.

The team was 51 and 67 in games he started.

His favorite team to play? Well, he was great in inter-league play, hitting .379/.455/.638 in 16 inter-league games. Including going 5 for 7 with 3 walks against the Dodgers. He hit .403/.431/.597 in 16 games against the Orioles. And .316/.458/.684 in 6 games against the Royals.

Least favorite? He hit .048/.321/.095 in 6 games against the Angels.


It was a disappointing season for Vlad, but then, we might as well get that out of the way in a rebuilding year. I’ve seen all the hot takes telling us he is overrated. I get that this is the world we live in, but you’d think that we’ve seem enough players struggle and get better that we wouldn’t jump to the ‘he is terrible’ opinion. But I suppose that’s what I get for being on Twitter.

My opinion hasn’t changed, I think he’ll be very very good.

I’m glad he is, at least talking about, taking his fitness more seriously this winter. I do think he tired at the end of the year. It might have been as much mentally as physically, but being in better shape can’t hurt.

He was hitting too many ground balls, and the hard contact seemed to disappear as the season went on. I’m sure it will come back next year.

I’m really looking forward to watching his career. Maybe even more now that we’ve seen it isn’t going to as easy for him as we hoped.


Lets do a report card:

Poll

For his 2019 season I’d grade Vladimir Guerrero Jr. a

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    A
    (20 votes)
  • 10%
    B+
    (49 votes)
  • 33%
    B
    (150 votes)
  • 26%
    B-
    (122 votes)
  • 13%
    C+
    (59 votes)
  • 7%
    C
    (33 votes)
  • 2%
    C-
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    D+
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    D-
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
453 votes total Vote Now


Oh let’s just show part of the home run derby for his big moment of the season. This is from round two.

Of course, there was this home run too....I don’t know how he got his bat on the ball, never mind hit it out of the park: