Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Made Huge Strides In 2018
Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was not only the best player, by a wide margin, in the organization. The 19-year-old was the best player in all the minor leagues.
Only a minor knee injury suffered in June slowed him down, and a month of dominance at Triple-A Buffalo after a July 31 promotion from Double-A New Hampshire only further enforced the notion of his big league readiness.
Guerrero batted .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs and 29 doubles in 95 games. He demonstrated a "continued ability to control the strike zone while doing damage in the zone and obviously elite level ability matched with bat speed, hand-eye coordination and plate discipline,” farm director Gil Kim said.
Kim points to Guerrero’s other growth points as being most pivotal this year.
"We’ve said this a bunch of times,” Kim said, "but really being the best athlete and best defender he can be, and the strides he made specifically on his defense with his footwork and his range were the strides we’re most excited about as an organization.”
Had he retained his prospect eligibility, lefty Ryan Borucki would have been the pick here, but 23-year-old righthander Sean Reid-Foley, who also made his big league debut in 2018, was right there with him in terms of progress.
Reid-Foley dominated at New Hampshire before a late-May promotion to Buffalo set him up for a stint in the majors.
"Last year was a developmental year where he really made strides with his changeup,” Kim said. "This year he got back to the aggressive, power fastball-type of pitcher that he is.
"He also showed a renewed commitment to his work routines and specifically his throwing programs. He's been getting after it during those four days in between starts and what we're seeing is more sustained velocity and more sustained strength for him here at the end of the season.”
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Shortstop Kevin Vicuna is often overshadowed among the glut of middle infield prospects in the Blue Jays' system, but he made major progress at low Class A Lansing to put himself on the radar.
"He's one of the best defenders at shortstop we have in the system, and that's obviously saying a lot,” Kim said. "It was encouraging to see him emerge as one of the leaders on that Lansing team. He was a sparkplug there, and offensively he made significant strides that have come with the strength gains he's made.”
Vicuna, a 20-year-old Venezuelan, hit .266/.307/.358 through 89 games in the Midwest League.
** The Blue Jays mention high Class A Dunedin righthander Patrick Murphy as a breakout prospect. He dominated the Florida State League, striking out 8.3 per nine innings in 26 starts, with his big fastball.