Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had posted the photo before, a picture of him smiling with a roller bag at JFK airport.
He liked the picture, so he posted it again on Instagram this week. Should he have known fans would try to connect the dots?
“I talked to him about it,” said John Schneider, Guerrero’s manager with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, “and he said, ‘No, I just liked that picture.’ Whether that’s true or not — he may just be a really good troll, I don’t know — it was fun. And just a little reminder that anything he does or says or posts is going to be seen by a lot of people and get a lot of attention.”
When you’re Vlad Guerrero Jr., son of the soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer, the youngest player in the Double-A Eastern League and hitting over .400 in mid-May, yes, people are ready to react the second you hit “post.” With the parent club, the Blue Jays, in New York to play the Mets this week, the internet erupted with talk of his being called to the major leagues.
But Vlad Jr., 19, was in Hartford, going 3-for-5 with a homer Monday night, and 1-for-4 with a walk and an RBI Tuesday to keep his average at .400. The Blue Jays want their best prospect, considered the best hitting prospect in minor league baseball, to get more time in the minors.
“There’s a recognition of some history,” said Ben Cherington, the Jays’ vice president of baseball operations, who is in Hartford watching the series. “Players who have been in the big leagues for a long time, really good players, what did their track in the minor leagues look like? Most often they spent more than 150 at-bats above A-ball. Not that one size fits all, but even great players tended to spend a little more time above A-ball.”
The Instagram post? “I believe it was entirely unintentional,” Cherington said. “I don’t know if he realized we were in New York. Once he realized it started getting attention, he took it down.”
After waiting out a 1:14 rain delay, the Fisher Cats beat Hartford, 7-6, in 11 innings, only a handful of fans hanging around to see Jonathan Davis’ game-winning two-run homer.
Guerrero has been a must-watch ballplayer since he signed with Toronto for a $3.9 million bonus in 2015. In his first 213 minor league games, he’s hitting .320 with 27 homers and 161 RBI, a .410 on-base percentage and .913 on-base plus slugging. With the big-league club in spring training, he hit a walk-off homer in Montreal, where his father had his best years.
“His offense isn’t that surprising,” Cherington said. “He’s got elite offensive gifts. He loves to hit. He’s got a real idea what he’s doing. What’s been most encouraging to us and the focus on his coming here is his commitment to working on his defense 1/8at third base 3/8 and his development as a teammate and a leader, and he’s done a great job with that.”
Guerrero, 6 feet 1 and 200 pounds, a right-handed hitter, drove a towering opposite field homer to the upper deck in right field on Monday. Hartford’s hitting coach, Lee Stevens, has seen it all before. He used to hit behind Vladimir Guerrero Sr. in the Expos’ lineup, when 2-year-old Vlad Jr. was a “little ball of energy running around the clubhouse.”
“The mannerisms,” Stevens said, “Junior looks a lot like his dad. Senior was a little taller, a little thinner. It’s hard to compare a 19-year-old kid to his dad when I saw him, in his prime, but his son is impressive.”
Vlad Sr., an outfielder, hit .318 with 449 homers in his 16-year career, and was known for his free-swinging, bad-ball hitting.
“Junior is not as free swinging as his dad — no one is,” Stevens said. “His dad was a freak of nature in regards to that. [Junior] stays in the zone a little more. Maybe his dad told him, ‘Don’t do that, like I did.’ The impressive thing is, he doesn’t strike out very much [13 in 32 games]. When you use the whole field, like he does, and don’t strike out much, you can do some damage.”
Vlad Sr., elected in his second year of eligibility, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29. The Fisher Cats will be back in Hartford that day — with or without Vlad. Jr., who could be called up for real by then.
“All I try to do every time I go to the field is give it 100 percent,” Guerrero said, through an interpreter, during the Fisher Cats’ first trip to Hartford. “Everybody tells me that’s the same way my dad was, go out there and give 100 percent. … Every game, after the game he calls, and that’s why I’ve gotten better through the years.”
As the Blue Jays remain patient with their potential franchise cornerstone, Guerrero has been enjoying himself, surrounded by players with pedigree, including Craig Biggio’s son Cavan, Dante Bichette’s son Bo, both of whom homered Tuesday.
“His is an infectious personality,” Schneider said, “a smile on his face every day. He loves coming to the park, loves playing, and teammates are kind of drawn to him. He could be hitting .200 and I think it’d be the same way.”
Source: Ny Daily News