While in Florida to see some other prospects a couple hours to the north, rain caused some scheduling issues and a bit of downtime so a trip to see highly touted prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays was in order. I wanted to see for myself if this kid looked as good in person as he did on television (MILB.tv, Futures Game). Here’s what I saw.
Seen: 7/21 vs Lakeland Flying Tigers in Dunedin, shortly after promotion to High A
Note that Vladdy Jr was not yet hitting for any power, as the 18 year old was still making an adjustment to a much older/more advanced league at a time most other 2015 July 2 signees are in the Appalachian of Gulf Coast Leagues, while he was in the Florida State League. Of course he has since gone on a tear.
Hitting: Vladdy Jr mixes patience and the ability to identify pitches and their location with aggressiveness. He's got that same ability as his father to go out and get any pitch thrown, but he'll also take a walk much more regularly than his father ever would. If anything he may have been a bit too passive at times- but that could also be due to him being new to the league.
When he swings he's aggressive, showing the big bat speed you hear about and looking to hit it hard. He's got a great feel for contact and situations- he's not afraid to shorten his swing when he's got two strikes against him and will look to put the ball in play. He's got big power, but it's still coming in games- to be expected as an 18 year old going up against grown men. There is enough bat speed, pitch recognition, plate coverage, and bat to ball ability to easily project a 60 hit tool on him, if not a 65 or better.
Power: I did not make it to batting practice as there was some rain in that period of time, so all I got to see was in the game. Without really getting to see the full power on display, I needed to rely on the fact he makes good hard contact, has the bat speed, and has shown me enough power on other occasions that conservatively projecting the power being at least a 60 as well. That's a plus hitter with plus power.
Defense: He's a big kid already and he's only going to get bigger. While he's agile for his size, he doesn't move well enough from side to side at present to see him being able to stick at third longterm. I'm not sold that he would definitely need to move to first- a spot that his athleticism would let him be a quality defender and a spot the bat still easily plays at.
Guerrero can actually see him getting a look in left field to take advantage of his athletic ability. His defense is hard to project because it depends on his body/growth as well as position, but I see a 30/40 at third, 50/60 at first, and 40/45 in left. The arm is big and will get a plus grade, and that’s another reason why I could imagine him potentially getting a look in left field.
Run: Speed isn't a part of his game and that's obvious. It's only going to slow as he continues to get bigger and add strength. He's likely going to be a 40 runner at best, though he's a bit better than that at present. He’s stolen some bases in his minor league career, but I don’t think that will translate going forward.
This kid is special. He's going to hit for power and average and will make quite the impact.
He's to me personally among the top three prospects in the game today, behind just Rafael Devers and Ronald Acuna, and I think comes with a high floor as well as his high ceiling. Him becoming a .300 hitter with 30 homers isn't exactly something that takes a ton of projection with this kid. Really the only question is where he winds up defensively, but that only matters so much when his bat plays anywhere on the field.