Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won’t turn 21 until just prior to next season, but a commitment to offseason conditioning could push him to a new level quickly.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his much-anticipated arrival in the big leagues in late April, and he promptly had a hit in each of his first three games. His overall offensive numbers were not particularly robust, with a .272/.339/.433 slash-line, 15 home runs and 69 RBI over 514 plate appearances (123 games), and he hit just .232 with a .293 slugging percentage and zero home runs in September.
Any struggle or ups and downs during his rookie season aren’t a referendum on Guerrero, as he’s just 20 years old and won’t turn 21 until March. But there is one key are he needs to work on, and everything else should naturally get better because of it.
Guerrero was listed at 250 pounds this year, though Scott Mitchell of TSN reported his playing weight fluctuated between 255 and 270 after he made his Major League debut. Even accounting for any “baby fat” factor, that’s pretty heavy for a third baseman and it showed defensively as he committed 17 errors (tied for second-most among American League third basemen).
General manager Russ Atkins said the team is committed to Guerrero at third base, but with the expectation he’ll use the offseason to get in better shape. Knee problems have bothered him in each of the last two seasons, so cutting some weight should help with that.
Guerrero backed up the idea himself, with a stated goal of dropping 15-20 pounds.
I think that’s the key for me to have a great year next year,” Guerrero said. “I feel good the way I am right now, but I’m going to try to come back a lot better. Maybe try to be 15 or 20 pounds less for spring training and I will take it from there after that.
Guerrero said he will go back to the Dominican Republic to work out with his uncle, before spending some time at the Blue Jays’ facility in Dunedin, Florida.
Anything Guerrero does defensively, at third base now or long-term or if he ever does move to another position, will be icing on the cake as long as he makes the plays he should and doesn’t give away outs with a lot of bad errors. But being in better shape should help him avoid nagging injuries and be more consistent at the plate, which is where the upside is for Vlad Jr.
An offseason commitment to conditioning, which appears to be coming, will be a critical step toward Guerrero starting to unlock his massive ceiling in 2020.