It just wasn’t any normal day in Toronto on Friday night. No, it was “Vladito” day.
That’s right, the long-awaited debut of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., was finally here. The 20-year-old phenomenon made his arrival wearing an Expos Jersey with his dad’s last name on it with a smile on his face. A smile that hasn’t seemed to leave his face since his days in Rookie ball with the Bluefield Blue Jays.
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) April 26, 2019
Guerrero Jr., had four plate appearances in his debut going one-for-four with a two-bagger in the bottom of the ninth. His first at-bat was a loud ground out to first base which exited off of his bat at 107 mph. The next two at-bats were long flyballs, one to right field, the other to dead center. The exit velocity on the ball hit to right was recorded at 100 mph while the fly out to center was recorded at 90 mph. The leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth, which was his first hit of his big league career was recorded at 90 mph.
If you’re interested in knowing, which I know you are, Vlad’s fly out to RF was hit at 100mph and went 368 ft — his fly out to CF was hit at 90mph and went 336 ft. His groundout to 1B … 107mph!!!
— James Gravley (@gravleyonair_) April 27, 2019
“It’s like having Zion Williamson on your team; it’s like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of talent,” Stroman said. Stroman, like Williamson, played his collegiate ball at Duke.
Vlad Jr.'s first career MLB hit is a double to RF to lead off the 9th in a tie game pic.twitter.com/ozO43ehnOK
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) April 27, 2019
As expected, the Blue Jays faithful gave Vlad a standing ovation when he came up to the plate in the bottom of the second to new hit song “Old Town Road.” Not only did they cheer for him then, they cheered when he picked up a slow running foul ball and tossed it in the stands. A sea of Blue Jays fans wearing his jersey arose like he was a savior — in most cases he might just be.
Vlad compares to his dad in numerous ways, except one. Plate discipline. Vlad, unlike his father, won’t swing above his head or below his feet. He will instead work counts, make the pitcher sweat, foul off balls repeatedly and then forcefully put a ball in play.
His discipline is exceptional. In his minor league career, Vlad only struck out 139 times in 1,071 at-bats.
Here’s a breakdown of his at-bats and strikeouts from Rookie ball to Triple-A.
- Rookie: 245 AB; 36 strikeouts; 65 games
- A (Full): 269 AB; 34 strikeouts; 71 games
- A (Adv.): 187 AB; 30 strikeouts; 53 games
- Double-A: 234 AB; 27 strikeouts; 61 games
- Triple-A: 140 AB; 12 strikeouts; 38 games
What is impressive about Vlad Jr. isn’t just his approach within the game, it’s his fan interaction as well. No matter how bad his day has been in between the lines, he always takes time to interact with the young fans, something he’s done since he started in Rookie ball — a lesson learned from his father.
Baseball might not be in Montreal anymore (which it should be), but Vlad Guerrero Jr., brought some of his dad’s flair from his Expos’ days to his debut in Toronto — a memory for baseball fans north of the border that they surely won’t forget.
Vlad will be playing third for Toronto on Saturday and batting fourth, one spot up from his debut on Friday as the Jays hope to keep their winning ways going.