Vladimir Guerrero Jr. gave Toronto Blue Jays fans some gaudy stats to salivate over in 2018, and at some point near the beginning of next season, baseball’s consensus top prospect figures to arrive at the MLB level.
But before that happens, Dan Szymborski of FanGraphs has offered a tantalizing appetizer: A forecast of Guerrero’s first seven seasons in the majors.
The third baseman’s projections are the best ever given to a position player prospect, according to Szymborski’s ZiPS system.
“The previous highs were Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, and Ronald Acuña,” writes Szymborski. “Vladito’s projections are better than any of those.”
Considering Trout is one of the best players ever, Bryant is a former MVP and Acuña could win a Rookie of the Year award this season, that’s truly elite company.
It’s worth noting that projection systems usually skew far toward the conservative side. As such, it’s rare for players to receive such a strong forecast, especially someone like Guerrero, who has yet to appear in a major-league game.
Zips, which uses growth and decline curves based on player type to find trends, paints a flattering picture of him as a perennial 30-home run, .580-slugging percentage threat, with an OPS that hovers about 50 per cent better than the league average.
His wins above replacement figures are strong, but not exactly in superstar territory and are likely dragged down by projected subpar defence. Vlad’s highest WAR in the next seven seasons is predicted to come in 2022, when he produces a 4.7 mark. For context, 25 players owned a higher WAR total during the 2018 campaign, with Mookie Betts (10.4) and Trout (9.8) leading the way.
Questions about defence are nothing new for Guerrero — his glove, along with running, ranks as his lowest-graded tool on the scouting scale and some evaluators believe it could eventually force him off third base.
Of course, hitting has always been Guerrero’s calling card. He led the minors in batting average (.381), slugging percentage (.636) and OPS (1.073) in 2018, concluding the season at triple-A, just on the doorstep of the majors.
“There’s no guarantee for Guerrero — skewness of risk essentially means there are a lot more things that could make him fall short than exceed his projections — but if he’s not even a good player, it would be one of the largest busts in the history of baseball,” writes Szymborski.