Blue Jays hoping extra work will help lift Vlad Guerrero Jr. out of early struggles
The initial, over-the-top curiosity associated with Vlad Guerrero Jr. has in some ways become a curse when it comes to expectations tied to one of the most exciting home-grown players in Blue Jays franchise history.
Fairly or otherwise, the weight of expectation is as much of a burden as the extra poundage the third baseman turned part-time first baseman/part-time designated hitter seems to be carrying with him early in this 2020 season.
And it is why that, even though it’s just the small slice sample size of seven games into the abbreviated campaign, there is already an anxiousness tied to the sublimely talented 21-year-old.
“He’s struggling right now,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo acknowledged in a recent Zoom conversation with Toronto reporters. “We have been facing good pitching and that has something to do with that. But it is only seven days.
“He’s another guy I believe in.”
Normally, a seven-game stretch to start the season would be seen as just a statistical blip – good or bad – for a batter in any lineup. But if Guerrero continues to struggle through scheduled road games which began last night in Atlanta and then to Boston on the weekend, almost a quarter of the 60-game season will be behind him.
So with everything being so magnified and the spotlight on Guerrero heightened because of his defensive shift across the diamond, it’s difficult not to raise an eye at Vlad’s skimpy .172 batting average. There’s also just one RBI thus far, that courtesy of a solo home run, his only round-tripper in the past 34 games.
It’s too early to panic, of course, but once weekend games in Philadelphia were postponed, Montoyo said that Guerrero was planning to spend extra time with Jays hitting coaches Guillermo Martinez and Dante Bichette during extra workouts as the team remained at Nationals Park in Washington.
If there is technical concern in Guerrero’s efforts so far, it is that he’s not driving the ball like he does when his swing is on, a flaw illustrated by three ground ball outs in the Jays’ recent game against the Nats. But as you would expect, his teammates seem confident that the form which made Guerrero one of the most highly touted prospects of 2019 will emerge soon.
“He seems pretty confident in himself . . . . Everybody in here knows he has the capability of being one of the best hitters in the world,” Jays shortstop Bo Bichette said.
It can be argued that the hype was unreasonable from the outset with Guerrero, but that is both the nature of the beast and a status the young player initially embraced.