MLB

Rising Blue Jays star Guerrero Jr. doing things teammates have never seen

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has torn through double-A, even after missing a month of the season with a knee injury, batting .403 with a .449 on-base percentage and .671 slugging percentage through 60 games.

Slugger is batting .403 with a .449 on-base percentage and .671 slugging percentage through 60 games

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., shown in this July 217 file photo, has moved up tothe Toronto Blue Jays' triple-A club in Buffalo. (File/Getty Images)

Jordan Romano and his New Hampshire Fisher Cats teammates were huddled in their home dugout months ago wondering how far Vladimir Guerrero Jr., could hit a baseball.

They got their answer in a May 7 game when Guerrero launched a home run deep to left field, clanging the ball off the Hilton Garden Inn beyond the outfield fence for his first multi-homer game of his double-A career.

"His first at bat he had laced [a homer] to centre field and we were talking like: 'if he hits it as hard as he hits that but gets a little more air out of it, he's going to hit the hotel,"' Romano said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. "And sure enough, two at-bats later he hits a home run off the hotel.

"It was insane. We'd never seen that in a game before.

"Every time he gets up to the plate we expect something crazy to happen and more often than not it does," Romano added. "He hits homers off the hotel, he smokes the ball every time he hits it. Every at bat you make sure to watch because you never know what he's going to do next."

Romano, a right-handed pitcher from Markham, Ont., and a 10th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2014, had a front row seat to the Vlad Jr. show at double-A this season.

He'll have to keep tabs on the Blue Jays No. 1 prospect from afar when Guerrero reports to Triple-A Buffalo on Tuesday in a promotion that comes as a surprise to no one.

The 19-year-old has torn through double-A, even after missing a month of the season with a knee injury, batting .403 with a .449 on-base percentage and .671 slugging percentage through 60 games.

The son of Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos star Vladimir Guerrero — Vlad Jr. was in Cooperstown, N.Y., this weekend for his father's induction ceremony before reporting to Buffalo — has 14 homers, 19 doubles and 61 runs batted in.

But for all the success Guerrero has shown at the plate, Romano said he's been more intrigued by the youngster's attitude.

"Of course what he does on the baseball field, what he's done to the pitchers in this league, I've never seen it done before and there's nothing like it. But the thing that impresses me most about him is he's 19, he has a huge spotlight on him, and just the way that he handles it so well," Romano said.

"You kinda forget how young he is. He's very mature. He's a really good teammate which is something you don't expect from a 19-year-old kid, but he supports all his guys, it's big."

Guerrero was one of a handful of top young prospects on a double-A team that also featured Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

Romano called the Fisher Cats "definitely the most talented team" he's ever been a part of, and the one that's garnered the most media coverage with large outlets like MLB Network, Sports Illustrated and ESPN all showing up to interview New Hampshire's top stars.

And while Guerrero and others have been enjoying double-A success, Romano is having a stellar year of his own in his third full season as a starter.

The 25-year-old, who added a change-up to his arsenal last year, is 10-4 and has a 3.40 earned-run average with 101 strikeouts and just 36 walks over 19 starts (111 1/3 innings) at New Hampshire. He was also just named the Eastern League's Pitcher of the Week for July 16-22.

"I think the key for me has really been staying aggressive," Romano said. "Attacking hitters, throwing a lot of strikes, not giving away free passes.

"The change-up didn't really click last year. I tried a couple different grips, this and that, but never really had a feel for the pitch. This year it's been effective for me, it's a really good weapon."

Romano, who also had a start in triple-A this season, counts himself lucky to have never faced Guerrero, not even in an intrasquad game at spring training.

"I don't know if that's by design but I'm thankful for that," he said with a laugh.

"He's a guy who's just always going to hit," he added. "I think he's going to do what he did in this league [in triple-A] too. He's going to have no trouble wherever he goes."

Vlad Sr. proud

Vladimir Guerrero said Sunday that he's "extremely happy" his son Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will take one step closer to the big leagues when he reports to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons on Tuesday.

Guerrero noted that Sunday is Father's Day in the Dominican Republic, and said he couldn't ask for a better day for his son's promotion and his own induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

"It means a lot to me that this promotion came today," he said at a news conference following his induction ceremony in Cooperstown, NY.

"In fact, Vladdy Jr. made me a surprise video for Fathers' Day. "Many people around me thought I was going to cry when I saw it, because they did."

Guerrero said he wished his son "the best of chances, but especially to keep working hard."

Guerrero Jr., who was present at his father's ceremony, gave the Toronto Blue Jays little choice but to name him to their Triple-A affiliate.

The son of the former Montreal Expos star signed with the Blue Jays as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2015.

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