As the Blue Jays hurtle towards the trade deadline, perhaps for the first time this season Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been truly under the radar.
While the Marcus Stroman trade is higher stakes than anything happening on the field, Vladdy has been quietly and effectively going about his business.
Last week, the 20-year-old had one of his best weeks of the season, posting four multi-hit games and helping the Blue Jays to one of their most dramatic wins of the season on Saturday.
Guerrero Jr. has looked better since the All-Star break, and it seems like a safer and safer bet that the second half of his season will be more productive than the first.
Here’s how the rookie fared last week:
The line: 9-for-22 with 1 home run, 3 doubles, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts
Best at-bat: Home run vs. Oliver Drake, bottom of the the ninth on Saturday
Last week we went with a strikeout as the best at-bat of the week, so it stands to reason a more conventional approach is warranted here.
This at-bat was not a 13-pitch epic, but Guerrero Jr. does an excellent job of sticking with an Oliver Drake splitter — the internet’s new favourite pitch. Vladdy excelled at crushing offspeed stuff and he showed exactly how that looks in a big situation.
Worst at-bat: Strikeout vs. Diego Castillo, bottom of the first on Friday
It feels awfully harsh to criticize a guy when he’s facing another who throws 100 mph with a nasty 90 mph silder, but this wasn’t pretty.
Guerrero Jr. reaches way outside the zone on a third-pitch slider when there’s no need for that in a 1-1 count. Then he goes hunting for a 2-2 pitch in a different area code.
Getting fooled on one of these sliders is understandable. Two in the same at-bat is rough.
How they pitched him:
Most of Vladdy’s best weeks come when he’s gotten a disproportionate number of fastballs, so it’s encouraging for the Blue Jays to see him do some damage on secondary stuff.
While teams alter their approach with Guerrero Jr. in terms of pitch mix, it seems like no matter what he does he gets approximately the same percentage of pitches in the zone.
One thing opposing pitchers will definitely look to do is limit the offspeed pitches because after the huge week he’s slugging .615 off of them.
Defence and base running: Guerrero Jr. had another one of his rare error-less weeks and even came up with a run-saving gem on the admittedly-slow Travis D’Arnaud.
Most of Vladdy’s best plays this season have involved him playing back and using his arm to beat runners. Coming in on softly-hit balls has not been his forte, but you wouldn’t know it from this play.
Guerrero Jr.’s week on the bases was a little bit more eventful, even as the wait for his first steal continues. On Monday he shot a ball down the first base line and got nabbed going for the double.
It looks like a two-bagger off the bat but Tyler Naquin’s impressive arm and Vladdy’s 39th percentile Sprint Speed conspired to ensure an out.
The very next day, Guerrero Jr. tried to get himself another borderline double, this time on a ball that Oscar Mercado had to dive to prevent from reaching the gap.
There are a couple of ways to interpret that series of events. Either Guerrero Jr. should be commended for not losing confidence and continuing to push the envelope after a setback OR you could argue that he didn’t learn his lesson.
With young players, mistakes of aggression are always preferred to mistakes of hesitancy, so the Blue Jays are probably happy with this sequence.
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