To Vlad, Or Not To Vlad
Many summers ago, I was walking along Queen St. west – just past Bathurst – to meet up with some friends at Trinity Bellwoods Park. And I will never forget this old hobo who came up to me and asked me for some change that hot afternoon.
He had a yellowish street-stained beard and had to be in his late fifties, although the defined wrinkles in his face suggested he was well into his late sixties. I decided what’s the point of giving him some change when all he really wanted was a drink. So, I gave him a tall can from my backpack, which made his day.
He was very thankful and all that stuff and then before I could leave, he told me that the one thing that he had learned during his time on this ol’ rock was that we all needed to learn how to be patient.
While listening to him rant about this topic for a couple minutes with his raspy voice, I thought he’d definitely break into a lil’ Guns N’ Roses and start singing the lyrics to ‘Patience’ – or something, but he didn’t. Although, I think for the rest of that day, I couldn’t get Axl Rose’s whistle out of my head - or the lyric, “said woman take it slow, and it’ll work itself out fine. All we need is just a little patience.” Anyway…
Blue Jays fans have been gushing over Vladdy Jr. and rightfully so, as this 19-year-old has done nothing but murder baseballs since arriving in Lansing last year. It’s been Vladdy…Vladdy…Vladdy…Vladdy first-ever-80-grade-hit-tool mania that has been filling the land of the Internet.
And with the way he has been shredding at the plate down in New Hampshire, it sure has sent a ton of Jays fans howling for him to be called up. And sure, I get it, but let’s not overreact and offer the first instinctive kneejerk reaction that comes to mind every time a new Vladdy dinger is posted through social media, or him going yard off a tee. Off. A. Tee.
It might be fun for Jays fans to tweet ‘Call Him Up’ or ‘Bring Up Vladdy’ and all that noise every time a new video surfaces of him crushing another baseball, but let’s really think about it. Do you really want Vladdy to get called up right now? Do you really want him to DH? I mean, of course, you do, but do you really?
I don’t think Vladdy should be the one who fills the DH hole once Shapiro and Atkins fire Morales into space. There are other reasonable options available; there are actually a lot of options available, which I’m not about to get into right now. But, Vladdy isn’t one of them, is he?
Now, if you’re a Jays fan, you’d have to be living on some other planet with no Wi-Fi to not know that Vladdy’s numbers at the plate have been off the radar ridiculously good with Double-A New Hampshire. This is not new news.
It seems unbelievable when you read that the kid is slashing a juicy .398/.453/.673 in 25 games. And it's awesome watching him smash the souls out of baseballs, too. But, at this point this is starting to just become the Vladdy kind of stuff that we expect to see and have been spoiled with of late. It’s the Vladdy news we’re all getting used to reading and hearing about.
I think what Ben Badler from Baseball America said last week when he was asked if Vladdy would be up with the Birds this season was spot on:
Maybe. The Blue Jays don't know what they're going to do yet, and I'm sure they would like to milk another year of service time control out of him if they can. As a hitter, he's major league ready right now. That sounds wild to say about a 19-year-old, but my goodness, I don't know how you pitch to him because he is such a complete hitter. In BP, he's hitting line drives to RCF that carry to the wall and smoking balls out of the stadium to his pull side. Then in the games, he has such incredible bat control and plate discipline. He's one of the best teenage hitters I've ever seen. But defensively, he does need work at third base. You can't bring him up at DH him because that would legitimately stunt his long-term development; wherever he plays, he needs to be playing third base every day to get better on the defensive side. But wow is he incredible to watch when he's in the batter's box.
This is the most honest statement about Vladdy and one that corresponds very well with everything that Ross Atkins said last week in an interview with Shi Davidi about the young star. So, let’s just enjoy watching Vladdy rake at the plate for New Hampshire and let’s not demand that the process be rushed.
It’s important to trust it and to not rush this kid, especially since we don’t want to hinder his development. I think Jays fans should understand that although his offensive numbers are something worth salivating over, there is more to the game of baseball than just that – sort of.
There is more to baseball than mashing, shredding, crushing, and murdering baseballs, even though MLB players that kill baseballs get paid Stanton kind of C.R.E.A.M. The thing is that Vladdy still needs to work on his defensive mechanics, and he probably needs time to mentally mature before he becomes the leader of the Blue Jays, so just trust the Jays’ timeline for Vladdy. He is only 19-years-old, and he still needs a little time to grow as an individual and as a player.
Badler just wrote a great scouting report piece on Vladdy Jr. and made a pretty bold claim, so let me just copy and paste it for you here:
Guerrero is the best teenage hitter to come along since Bryce Harper batted .270/.340/.477 in 139 games as a 19-year-old rookie in 2012 with 5.2 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.com. Vladdy Jr. has his dad’s hitting mannerisms, with an offensive profile in the mold of superstars like Manny Ramirez and Frank Thomas. He is already a player with the upside to win a batting title or to lead the league in OBP or slugging in some years.
And all of this Vladdy news just keeps getting better and better as the days keep pushing on. It’s one YOWZA followed by another WHOA followed by another ‘Bring. Him. Up.’ tweet. Yes, that’s right folks, the Toronto Blue Jays have the number 1 prospect in all of baseball and the choo choo train to hypeville is just getting started in this young season, so hop on and enjoy the ride. But, don’t get too crazy while you’re on it because we still need to practice some patience.
John Schneider – the manager of the Fisher Cats – told BA that he thinks he’s (Vladdy) made great progress just in the couple of years that he’s been playing third. He added that obviously he has a plus arm, so he thinks that spot is a good spot for him at third. And, I think, that’s it fair to assume that Atkins and company feel the same way.
Schneider said that they’re working on angles to his glove side, they’re working on slow rollers, all these things, and he’s done an outstanding job with it, working at it every day. And maybe that’s why it’s important that Vladdy is working closely with the coaching staff in New Hampshire and playing every inning possible at third to work on these things before he becomes an everyday third baseman in the MLB next year. Sitting on the Blue Jays' bench waiting to hit baseballs isn't going to turn Vladdy into the best baseball player he can be.
And, sure, I’m over the bat-flippin’ moon that this are-you-kidding-me Dominican prodigy is going to play for the Jays, but I’m very cool with waiting until next year and so should all of you. Be cool, kids and be patient.
Can Vlad hit MLB pitching today? YES! And if he were to DH for the Jays now, he certainly would do a much better job than Morales. But, it’s just not the proper play. And as Badler stated, why wouldn’t the Blue Jays want to milk another year of service time out of him if they can, but this is certainly not the only reason why they won't call him up.
Atkins said a lot of reasonable things in Shi Davidi’s great interview that some Jays fans might not want to come to terms with, but probably know that they should. As he made it crystally clear that there are other things besides his offensive numbers, which need to be considered when promoting a player:
That’s just offence, right, when you say statistically … There are so many more aspects of the game. And it’s only a month of performance above A-ball, as well. Look, man, we’re elated that he’s having this type of performance and it doesn’t look like this performance is going away, the way he’s doing it.
Right now, we’re entirely focused on Vladdy as the best possible third baseman he could be, the best possible base-runner, of course offensive player, and teammate. And right now, we currently have a very good third baseman on our major-league team.
Oh, yeah, Josh effin’ Donaldson, not that any of you needed to be reminded of that. Listen we can bang the ‘call him up’ Vladdy drum all season long if you want, but it’s going to get a bit boring soon, don’t you think? The truth is, it kind of already is.
I would’ve written about this last week, but I’ve been really damn sick with migraines, fevers, and sore throats from hell, but I’m finally coming around – sort of. I guess, as the old wise hobo once said… patience. And this damn virus sure has tested mine.
I think we should all enjoy watching Vladdy’s progress this season. We should all get excited over the sound of the ball off his bat when he murders baseballs, or crushes them off tees. We should all enjoy watching every ‘Cats highlight of Vladdy doing Vladdy things at the plate. The kid really is something special, and so is Josh Donaldson, too - let’s not forget that in all of this call up Vladdy hype, amirite?
And how cool would it be if the Jays’ front office could find a way to merge the Donaldson era with the Vladdy era? I’m not sure if something like this is realistic, but I hope it is – that’s a whole other piece for another time. Anyway, let’s continue banging the Vlad drum this season, but let’s try to practice some patience while we’re doing it. Now, here's a clip of Vladdy doing Vlad things...