There are legit reasons to keep him in the minors, but Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins is trying too hard to talk down Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
There’s no doubt Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the top prospect in baseball right now, it’s just a matter of when he takes over at third base for the Toronto Blue Jays. Service time concerns seem sure to keep him down to the start the season, but Guerrero has conquered minor league pitching (.381/.437/.636 slash-line, 20 home runs, 78 RBI and 50 extra base hits in 95 games).
Guerrero missed some time with a knee injury last year, but he hit well after returning to action and continued to rake in the Arizona Fall League (.351/.409/.442 slash-line, 17 RBI in 19 games). He’ll also turn 20 on March 16, and with only 30 games and 128 plate appearances above Double-A there’s some argument for more minor league seasoning.
A couple weeks ago, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins stated there was “no firm timeline” for when Guerrero would arrive in the big leagues.
Concerns about Guerrero’s defense at third base could be well-rooted, as he had 12 errors in 217 chances last year. But he’s not going to be a star because he’s a Gold Glover, as his elite offensive ability will drive his value.
During an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Tuesday, Atkins did not waver from his stance on Guerrero.
Our vision, it really comes down to development, so I just don’t see him as a major-league player … Pencil him in, it’s done. He’s 19 and he has accomplished everything that you can accomplish as an offensive player.
Teams manipulating service time is nothing new, and it’s not going away unless or until it’s collectively bargained out. From Kris Bryant a few years ago to Ronald Acuna last year to Guerrero’s fellow top prospect Eloy Jimenez sure to have his major league debut delayed this year, it’s beneficial to secure an extra year of club control over top young players.
But Atkins is stretching to suggest Guerrero, barring an injury, won’t be one of Toronto’s best 25 players ready to come north from spring training. In the meantime, Brandon Drury is set to hold down third base for the Blue Jays until about mid-April.