Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had a rather underwhelming first half of his rookie season, or at least when you consider all of the hype as baseball’s consensus top prospect. With that hype comes very unfair pressure for someone that just turned 20 years old in March. Guerrero was a decent, not great hitter in 253 first-half plate appearances, with a .248/.328/.413 slash line, eight homers, and a 98 wRC+ (still, for a 20-year-old in the major leagues, that’s very impressive production!).
Then the Home Run Derby came along, and Guerrero showed any doubters why baseball evaluators drool over his potential.
Maybe that Derby performance got Guerrero’s confidence going, but it’s also as likely that an extremely gifted hitter just started to make adjustments to big-league pitching in the second half.
Guerrero blasted two homers in Toronto’s 11-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night, and the second dinger really showed off his bat speed and otherworldly power.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) August 2, 2019
Beautiful swing from the true HR Derby Champion: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. pic.twitter.com/XtXHOxoF3c
— Ben Porter (@Ben13Porter) August 2, 2019
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. homers (13): fly ball to LF (solo)
Hit: 450.22ft💣, 113.61mph🔥, 23.45°🚀
[2nd of game]
Pitch: 86.1mph Curveball (RHP Dillon Tate, 2) pic.twitter.com/9ci8qgtbKR
— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) August 2, 2019
Over his last five games, Vladito has four homers and 16 runs batted in. He’s the youngest player to drive in 16 runs over five games in MLB history.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the youngest player with 16+ RBI in a 5-game span in @MLB history.
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) August 2, 2019
All of a sudden, Guerrero has very good numbers offensively on the season, with a .267/.341/.456, 13 homers, a 10.0% walk rate, a 17.5% strikeout rate, and a 112 wRC+.
In the second half, Vladito has a monster .324/.385/.592 slash line (.976 OPS) in 71 plate appearances. He has nine extra-base hits, seven walks, and only 11 strikeouts in the second half. He’s crushing the ball, taking his walks, and making contact at an above average rate (77.5% contact rate on the season; MLB average is 76.3%).
It took a few months, but we’re now seeing why Guerrero entered 2019 as baseball’s top prospect. Now, there will likely be some more growing pains as there are with any young hitter, and AL teams are surely obsessed with trying to find his holes.
But expect Guerrero to continue adjusting back. He’s a tremendously special hitting talent, and an insanely advanced one for his age. There’s no reason to think he won’t be one of the best hitters in baseball for a long, long time.