The top prospect in all of baseball made his debut with the Buffalo Bisons Tuesday night. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., son of hall of famer Vladimir Guerrero, had a relatively uneventful performance in front of a large crowd at Coca-Cola Field even though the Bisons lost to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs 11-8.
It’s only a matter of time before he gets promoted to the Toronto Blue Jays. Until then, the 19-year old phenom will develop his skills in Buffalo. WBFO’s Nick Lippa reports.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has dominated whatever baseball diamond he could find. As the youngest player in Double-A baseball, he hit an incredible .402 average with 14 home runs and 60 RBI in New Hampshire. As a member of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, it’s easy to see why Canadian fans would cross the border to get a glimpse at their star prospect.
“Vlad brought us across the border to this park,” said Tracy Peters.
Peters is one of several Blue Jays fans who visited Coca-Cola field for the first time last night. With Toronto’s season essentially over, she’s looking towards what the future has in store.
“A few years ago when the Jays made the playoffs it was super exciting. Things have just sort of slid a little in the past couple of years,” said Peters. “I think we’re looking more towards the future. 2019, 2020. I think there’s some great guys that they’ve got coming up. Specifically Vlad, but Bo Bichette and a few other guys. I think the team can be really good but give it a couple of years.”
Fans showed up three hours before the game even started just to get a glimpse of Guerrero Jr. take batting practice. Southern Ontario native Mark Jeffries, another Canadian attending his first game at Coca-Cola field, said Toronto is chomping at the bit to see him in a Blue Jays uniform.
“The fans… they don’t understand why this guy hasn’t been called up to the Jays,” said Jeffries. “It’s nice to see that they got brought up here to Triple-A. I mean, he’s been tearing up Double-A. So it serves no purpose to keep him down there. He’s ready to go here.”
Guerrero Jr. made his presence felt right away in last night’s game, drawing three walks in his first three plate appearances. The crowd eventually started booing the Iron Pigs pitchers. They seemed to be content not giving him anything to hit after going up 8-0 after 2 innings.
The Bisons, like the Blue Jays, have struggled mightily this year. Just like the fans, Guerrero Jr. knows the development of prospects is key for Toronto’s future success.
“The players in the system… he hopes in the next year they can create something really good,” said Guerrero’s translator and mental performance coach Rafael DuBois.
When watching Guerrero Jr. play, it’s easy to forget he’s only 19. He will continue to live with his grandmother as he settles in to Buffalo.
“Of course. If I move to China, she comes with me,” he laughed.
“If I need advice, any advice I can get from her, I can get. She’s there to support me. Every game, after the game we sit down and talk about the game.”
So what does this MVP caliber prospect have left to work on before advancing to the majors? Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said he just has to keep doing what he’s been doing.
“Not everybody pans out right? But we are hoping this one does,” said Meacham. “You just got to keep going a day at a time. Truly, set up a good routine that helps these guys get better. He’s got a routine in place right now all the way through the system so far that’s helped him get better and really grow every single year that he’s played. We’re going to continue that and hope he turns out to be a great one.”
The Blue Jays have brought Guerrero Jr. up through the farm system slowly, leading many to believe he could see a fair amount of time playing for the Bisons. However, everybody knows, including his new manager, it’s just a matter of time before he’s in the majors.
“He’s hitting .400 in Double-A. Everybody has kind of been anticipating this. It’s just a matter of when I guess,” said Meacham. “I don’t really manage it. I basically just, like everybody else like you guys and players and Vlady himself…. we’re just expecting to continue to move on to the next day and hopefully see how good he can be.”
You can catch Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in Wednesday night’s double header starting at 5:35 p.m. at Coca-Cola Field.