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July 27, 2017

Prospectus Feature

A Series Look: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

by Steve Givarz


Unlike Bo Bichette, I don’t have a personal history with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. I was unable to see him during Extended Spring Training in 2016, and instead of an assignment to the Gulf Coast League; he was sent to the Appalachian League. Our first mention of him was back in 2015 by Christopher Crawford, but since then we have not had many in-person looks before this season. One of them was by Emmett Rosenbaum in a Ten Pack, as well as various updates from myself, Mark Anderson, and Wilson Karaman in the Minor League Ten Pack. Then we ranked him No. 13 in the Midseason Top 50.

Game 1 v. Tampa 7/12

First AB: Erik Swanson, RHP
Guerrero takes a first pitch fastball from Swanson at 95 for a called strike. I already notice that he isn’t nearly as aggressive a hitter as Bichette. He likes to get comfortable with his at-bats and see what a pitcher has to offer instead of swinging out of his shoes at the first pitch. The next pitch is a fastball that he fouls off. He seems comfortable now, but his swings are also quite violent. Swanson brings a third straight fastball, and Guerrero fouls it off again. It seems like Guerrero can use the whole field and was just working with what the pitcher was giving him, which was high heat. On 0-2 again, Swanson tries a slider at 86: no luck, and called a ball. On 1-2, Swanson fires a 96 mph fastball. Guerrero swings and misses. Our hero is 0-1 in High-A.

Second AB: Erik Swanson, RHP
Like he did in his first at-bat, Guerrero takes a first called strike. I’ve watched enough low-level baseball to learn that most of the time, you could just stand there and you will eventually find yourself at first base. Once you get to High-A, that strategy ceases to work and you have to start thinking like a pitcher. “How will they attack me? What are they most comfortable with? When do they fall into patterns? Where are they likely to throw certain pitches? Why are they throwing this pitch?” On 0-1, Guerrero sees another fastball up in the zone and he pops it up for a weak out to the second basemen. Our hero is 0-2.

Third AB: Andrew Schwaab, RHP
Schwaab is a different look for Guerrero. Unlike Swanson, who had a big fastball with a high slot, Schwaab is a side-armer who throws a lot of sliders and relies more on deception and location. Like he has done before, Guerrero takes the first pitch, this time a slider at 83 for a called strike. The next offering is another slider; swing and miss. This is probably the best pitch I have seen Schwaab throw all year—it flashed above-average with late depth, fooling Guerrero. On 0-2, Schwaab goes to another slider, and Guerrero takes it for strike three. I am sure Guerrero was expecting a slider, but that it would be one out of the zone for a chase pitch, not one that would paint the corner. Through three at-bats, I have not seen him put one ball in play.

Fourth AB: Jose Pena, RHP
Like Schwaab, Pena is here to fill a role. Mainly his role is to eat innings and provide depth to the bullpen. Also like Schwaab, he is a side-armer. Pena is fairly generic; he is 88-89 with sink, and a true sweeping slider at 75-78. He has had success this year, and has even made a brief cameo in Double-A, which is a far cry from rookie ball, which was where he had spent the majority of the past 6 seasons.

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Transaction Analysis: ... (07/27)
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