One year ago, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. braved the frigid January weather to participate in the first-ever Blue Jays Winter Fest. At the time, Josh Donaldson was the star attraction on the roster. This year, Guerrero is ready to take the torch as the next superstar of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Guerrero spoke to the media through his translator at Blue Jays Winter Fest on Saturday morning. The sub-zero temperatures notwithstanding, he’s looking forward to making an impact with the Blue Jays in 2019.
“I’m staying focused on working really hard and that is what will open the door for me,” Guerrero said through his translator.
The 19-year-old phenom did everything that was asked of him in 2018. He led all minor leaguers with an ungodly .381 batting average in 95 games in the minor leagues. For his slew of impressive numbers, Vlad Jr. was awarded the Minor League Player of the Year in 2018.
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Other accolades awarded to Guerrero include the MLB Pipeline Hitter of the Year, the USA Today Minor League Player of the Year, and Baseball American’s Minor League Player of the Year.
He conquered every challenge put in front of him last year. Even in the Arizona Fall League, Guerrero slashed .351/.409/.442 in 19 games in the AFL.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Guerrero’s banner 2018 season was his ability to reach base unlike anyone else. Of the 95 minor league games he played in 2018, there were only six games when he didn’t reach base. He hit safely in 80 of 95 games as well.
On January 11th, the Blue Jays traded Russell Martin to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a pair of prospects. The Jays picked up $16.4 million of Martin’s salary to beef up the return from the Dodgers, which saw them land infielder Ronny Brito and right-handed pitcher Andrew Sopko.
Given how the Blue Jays are in the midst of a rebuild, from an outsider’s perspective, it wasn’t shocking when the team shipped out the 35-year-old catcher in the final year of his contract.
One person was surprised, however; was Guerrero.
“I was very surprised because the day that Russell Martin got traded. I was talking with him earlier that day and we were talking earlier about the 2019 (season).”
Earlier in the day, the two were working out together at the Blue Jays training facility in Dunedin. Later that day, Martin was no longer Guerrero’s teammate.
If fans weren’t aware of Guerrero’s presence at last year’s Winter Fest, they certainly are now. With Guerrero Jr. jerseys everywhere, the phenom is already a household name before he’s taken his first swing as a big leaguer.
Whether it’s two weeks into April, or the end of the first month of the 2019 season, Vlad’s time soon will come. The Blue Jays will certainly wait the allotted 15 days in order to limit Guerrero’s service time and extend his team control to a seventh season. That forecasts his arrival date somewhere around April 11th in Boston, if the Blue Jays decide to promote him that early.
One year ago, Guerrero had just completed his first full season in the minor leagues. This year, he feels a responsibility to live up to the monumental hype which fans have set forth on him.
“In terms of seeing the people with my jersey, I feel very proud and very happy and that makes me work harder because I want to keep doing a good job.”