Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his Major League Baseball debut on Friday. The excitement was astonishing for a 20-year-old who had not had his first Major League plate appearance.
Vlad Jr. is considered an all-time great prospect. His hit tool projects to be elite at the big-league level immediately. Toronto held him back for a few days partly because of the NHL and NBA Playoffs, making sure full Friday night attention was on America’s Pastime.
Guerrero has been at the centre of further frustration with service time rules. He has been ready for the biggest stage for some time, but Toronto have kept him ‘working on his game’ in the minors. No one can blame them for that when they’re not due to compete. Vlad Jr. is just the start of a wave of exceptional young talents in the organisation.
Within a year or so, and maybe even sooner, Toronto could have a young core as good as any in MLB.
There’s uncertainty with prospects, even Guerrero, but the upside is immense.
The Blue Jays were the focus of the baseball world yesterday. MLB The Show made special announcements for Vlad’s arrival, MLB made them the free Game of the Day, and the game was televised. It was unlike anything we have seen for anyone else in recent times.
From arriving in his father’s Expos jersey to crushing a monster homer in batting practice, Guerrero was box office. The world, or those of us interested in baseball at least, were watching. He’s only 20 years old making his debut and the questions are not about if he can succeed, they are about how great he will be.
There was no fairytale home run, though the top prospect went close. His game ended when he was replaced for a pinch runner after his first hit. This was, of course, just the start.
Friday night was the beginning of a new era for the Blue Jays. The crowd was bouncing. Television networks, tweeters and reporters were gazing at Rogers Centre – it’s not often that happens for a rebuilding team who are five games out of first in April.
The 162-game journey of a regular season doesn’t leave time for many nights like this. Players, and even franchises, do not get nights of this profile, even if you’re Mike Trout or the New York Yankees. It’s just the way baseball works.
Vlad Jr.’s debut was a special occasion; it generated a buzz around baseball seldom seen outside of the postseason and Opening Day.