Image credit: (Photo by Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
Not all 80 grades are created equal. It’s common to find scouts who throw an 80 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) on a player’s running speed or a pitcher’s fastball.
Speed and velocity are quantifiable, but when it comes to projecting a hitter as an 80 or having 80 productive power, scouts understandably are much more reticent. Saying a minor leaguer will be an 80 hitter is to predict that he will win batting titles. Putting an 80 grade on a hitter’s power is to say he will win home run titles.
In the case of Blue Jays third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it’s not hard to find scouts who project him as an 80 hitter. Some see him as having 80 power. Some see him as potentially having both, which would put him in the company of Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols at the plate.
“They don’t build major league ballparks big enough to hold him,” a veteran scout said of Guerrero. “I told our guys, ‘He’s got 90 power.’ He has Hall of Fame ability.”
At midseason, Guerrero has somehow managed to meet and even exceed the very lofty expectations heaped on him coming into the season. For that reason—and despite the fact he went on the disabled list in early June with a knee injury—Guerrero is our Midseason Minor League Player of the Year. He hit .407/.457/.667 with 11 home runs in 53 games with Double-A New Hampshire.
Guerrero’s domination of the Eastern League in the first half was nearly complete. He failed to reach base in just three games—compared with four games where he reached base four times. As of the end of June, Guerrero had gone hitless seven times this season. He had three or more hits eight times. He had two or more hits in 26 of 53 games.
Guerrero also has a shot at becoming the first .400 hitter in a full-season minor league since Erubiel Durazo hit .404 in the Diamondbacks’ system between Double-A El Paso and Triple-A Tucson in 1999. Durazo accomplished that as a 25-year-old hitting in a pair of the best hitter’s parks in the minors. Guerrero is flirting with .400 in the Eastern League, where only one hitter has hit .400 in the nearly 100-year history of the league.
Just four players in the 21st Century have hit .380 or higher in a season in which they qualified for the batting title: Jose Altuve at .389 (2011), Jose Martinez at .384 (2014), Rick Short at .383 (2005) and James Loney at .380 (2006). The 19-year-old Guerrero has a chance to join them.