Toronto Blue Jays

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. era in Toronto begins on Friday

Toronto Blue Jays plan to call up top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for his much-anticipated debut on Friday against Oakland

Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, at the end of a press conference following a lackluster 4-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday afternoon, made an announcement that ensured the game will quickly be forgotten.

“We’re planning to call Vlad Guerrero for Friday’s game,” Montoyo said.

Thus ends the interminable wait for Blue Jays fans. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the No. 1 prospect in baseball, will make his Major League debut on Friday when the Blue Jays play the Oakland Athletics at Rogers Centre.

By almost any reckoning, Guerrero should have been in the Blue Jays lineup long ago. In 2018 he hit .381 in the minor leagues and was named Minor League Hitter of the Year by MLB Pipeline, all while he was just 19 years old. The numbers showed a player clearly ready to take on big league pitching.

One thing only kept him in the minors, however. The collective bargaining agreement sets a year of service time at 172 days. A Major League season is 187 days. Keep Guerrero in the minors for just 15 days at the start of this season and the Blue Jays keep him under team control for one more year.

So while fans kept clamoring for Guerrero with “call him up” posts on social media, General Manager Ross Atkins stuck to the team’s plan all along. Guerrero went back to Triple-A Buffalo at the start of the year, where he’s continued to tear through opposing pitchers. Last Wednesday he hit a ball clear out of Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium, a home run measured at 441 feet. He hit another earlier today, an opposite-field shot in Buffalo’s game in Syracuse in what proved to be his last game as a minor leaguer. In eight games for Buffalo this season he’s hitting .367 with three home runs.

Guerrero’s first game on Friday will arguably be the most anticipated debut in recent memory. The Blue Jays have already announced they’re opening their gates an hour earlier so fans can watch him take batting practice. Expectations couldn’t be higher for him, but Blue Jays fans should be patient. He will go on a 0-20 streak. He will strike out with the bases loaded. He will make an error at third base. None of this means he’s not deserving of the hype. It just shows he’s a 20-year-old still learning how to be a professional baseball player.

If Guerrero turns out to be as good as advertised, the Blue Jays can use his bat in their lineup. Their regular third baseman, Brandon Drury, is hitting just .179 so far this season. Come Friday, though, Drury will have to find a different position to play.

Montoyo recognizes what he has in Guerrero and that Guerrero isn’t just another prospect. “It’s a big moment for the Toronto Blue Jays. No. 1 prospect in baseball is coming Friday,” he said. “So it’s a big moment for us. Hopefully, he becomes what everybody thinks he’s going to become. And that’s going to be good for all of us.”

His development in the minor leagues is over. The 15 days he needed to stay down due to service time rules is long past. On Friday, at last, the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. era begins in Toronto

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