It's Vladdy time: What you should know about the Blue Jays phenom
He's Canadian. He's different than his famous dad. And he can really hit.
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Happy Vladdy Day!
It's like Christmas morning for Blue Jays fans: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the top prospect in baseball and one of the most-hyped young players ever, is finally making his major-league debut tonight. The home game against Oakland starts at 7 p.m. ET. Guerrero could also be in the lineup Saturday (3 p.m. ET) and Sunday (1 p.m. ET).
Here are some things you should know about the (very) young slugger:
2. He's a Canadian citizen. Vlad Jr. was born in Montreal when his dad played for the Expos. But he was raised mostly in the Dominican. Like his dad, his primary language is Spanish.
3. He's only 20 years old. But Vlad Jr. spent his brief minor-league career crushing more experienced, grown-up professional pitchers. Despite still being a teenager at the time, he made a smooth transition last year to triple-A (the highest stage of the minors). And in eight games at that level this season, he hit three homers and posted a 1.124 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. To put that in perspective, only one guy is currently topping that number in the majors: Mike Trout, the best baseball player in the world.
4. He's a phenomenal hitter. The respected scouting service Baseball America called him "already a complete hitter" and "major-league ready" — a year ago. They also said he was "one of the best teenagers ever." Guerrero's power stands out (he recently smashed a ball out of a stadium) but what makes him exceptional is his selectiveness and lack of obvious weaknesses. A guy with top-notch power who doesn't swing at bad pitches and is hard to strike out is the most prized kind of hitter.
5. But his fielding needs work. Vlad's pudgier body type isn't ideal for playing defence, but he's a good enough athlete (and, again, still only 20 years old) that the Jays hope he can become a credible third basemen. Guys who can play the field are always more valuable. But if it doesn't work out, Vlad should still be able to deliver enough bang for the buck as a designated hitter. He's that good with the bat.
6. He's different from his dad. Vlad Sr., is one of the best bad-ball hitters of all time (watch this montage of him smacking pitches outside the strike zone). You'd never teach someone to bat like him, but he was so talented and so athletic that he could pull it off. Vlad Jr.'s style is a much more modern mix of power and discipline. At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds (that's his listed weight anyway) he's thicker than his dad, who played at a svelte 6-3, 235. Senior once stole 40 bases in a season. That may be a career's worth for Junior, though he did swipe a surprising eight in 119 games in 2017. One thing the son already has over his old man: he's a lot richer at this stage of his life. Junior signed a $3.9-million US deal with the Jays after he turned 16. Senior got $2,500 from the Expos back in 1993.
Other stuff we're talking about
The Raiders and Giants were the losers of the NFL draft. There's always a team or two that gets made fun of the most for its picks. This year it was a pair of the league's most dysfunctional franchises. Oakland is getting laughed at for using the No. 4 overall pick on Clelin Ferrell, an OK pass rusher from college-champion Clemson who was expected to go much later in the draft. Two picks later, New York chose quarterback Daniel Jones — a lookalike for current Giants QB Eli Manning who didn't really wow anyone during his time at Duke (not exactly a football factory). Another loser last night: Josh Rosen. Arizona picked him 10th overall last year, then last night took another QB (Kyler Murray) No. 1 overall. Rosen promptly did exactly what someone his age would do in this situation: he unfollowed the Cards on social media. One last laugh: Pittsburgh's first-round pick, Devin Bush, wore the following suit:
The Chiefs barred star receiver Tyreek Hill from team activities as the NFL investigates child-abuse allegations against him. A Kansas City TV station aired a disturbing audio recording yesterday, on which Hill's fiancee accuses him of physically abusing their three-year-old son. She says that he punches the child in the chest when the boy cries, and that "if he gets in trouble, you get the belt out.'' The super-talented Hill fell to the fifth round of the NFL draft in 2016 because of a domestic-violence arrest, but is now one of the league's best receivers. Back in December, the Chiefs cut star running back Kareem Hunt after a video surfaced showing him shoving and kicking a woman. Hunt later signed with Cleveland but will have to serve an eight-game suspension.
NBA legend John Havlicek died. Nicknamed "Hondo" because of his resemblance to John Wayne (who starred in a movie with that title), Havlicek spent his entire career with the Boston Celtics and is still their all-time leader in points and games played. He won NBA championships in each of his first six years on Boston's start-studded '60s teams that included all-time greats Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, then added two more as the Celtics' elder statesman in the mid-'70s. Havlicek was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1984. He was 79.
What (besides Vladdy) to watch this weekend
NHL playoffs — Carolina at New York Islanders (7 p.m. ET) and Colorado vs. San Jose (10 p.m. ET). It's Game 1 in both second-round series. San Jose captain Joe Pavelski is unlikely to play after being knocked out and bloodied during the third period of Game 7 against Vegas. The ensuing, controversial major penalty for cross-checking helped San Jose rally from a 3-0 deficit and eventually win in overtime.
NBA playoffs — Golden State at L.A. Clippers (10 p.m. ET). Despite being massive underdogs against a team going for its third straight championship, the pesky Clippers have stolen two games on the road. The Warriors can close out the series tonight and advance to play rival Houston. If they don't, Game 7 is Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Canadian Premier League inaugural match (1 p.m. ET on CBC, CBCSports.ca). The new seven-team soccer league kicks off with Forge FC (based in Hamilton, Ont.) facing York9 FC (Toronto). Like the CFL, there are Canadian content rules — more than half the starters must be Canucks. The season is split into two halves, and the winners of each will play for the championship in October. Starting with the opener, 10 matches this season will be televised on the CBC TV network, and all those plus another 10 will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca. For more details on the new league, see Nigel Reed's CPL explainer. And catch pre- and post-game shows at noon and 3 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca.
Road to the Olympic Games (3 p.m. ET on CBC, CBCSports.ca). This week's show opens with an hour-long preview of the upcoming Diamond League track and field season (it's an important one with the world championships coming up in September and the Olympics 15 months away). Following that is coverage of the Diving World Series event in Montreal. There are five World Series meets during the season, and they're reserved for the best divers. Heading into stop No. 3, Canada's Meaghan Benfeito ranks second in the women's 10-metre standings, while Jennifer Abel and Pamela Ware rank third and fourth, respectively, in the 3m. Francois Imbeau-Dulac is third in the men's 3m. Canadians are also medal contenders in the various synchronized events.
NHL playoffs — Dallas at St. Louis (3 p.m. ET) and Columbus at Boston (8 p.m. ET). Both home teams are up 1-0 in their series after 3-2 wins on Thursday night. Charlie Coyle scored a late tying goal and the OT winner for Boston, while St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington made 16 saves in the third period.
NBA playoffs — Philadelphia at Toronto (7:30 p.m. ET). After demolishing Orlando in the first round, the Raptors face their first real test of the playoffs. Philly is one of the most interesting teams in basketball because it has three star players who all have a major flaw: Ben Simmons can't shoot, Joel Embiid isn't in great shape and gets hurt a lot, and Jimmy Butler's aggressive personality isn't for everyone. But if all that talent ever comes together… look out. For a full breakdown of the Raptors-Sixers matchup, see Myles Dichter's series preview.
NBA playoffs — San Antonio at Denver (10 p.m. ET). If Golden State does what it's supposed to do on Friday night, this will be the only Game 7 of the opening round. The Nuggets are the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, so if they lose it's a pretty big upset. San Antonio's DeMar DeRozan is famous for coming up short in the playoffs during his time with Toronto, but he's averaging 22.5 points in his first playoff series for the Spurs. That's more than a point above his regular-season average.
NHL playoffs — Carolina at New York Islanders (3 p.m. ET) and Colorado at San Jose (7:30 p.m. ET). This is Game 2 in both series. Interesting sublot in the Hurricanes-Islanders matchup: the NHL announced before the playoffs that, if the Isles made it past the first round, their home games would move to the arena in Brooklyn because "Nassau Coliseum does not qualify as an NHL major-league facility." Nassau is a dump, sure, but it's also located in the heart of the team's traditional (and rabid) suburban Long Island fan base. Crumbling old buildings always seem to bring out the wildest fans, so it won't be quite the same in hip, gentrified Brooklyn.
Diving — World Series event in Montreal (4 p.m. ET on CBCSports.ca). The final day of competition features the women's 3m, men's 10m & mixed 3m synchro finals. Watch for Canada's Jennifer Abel and Pamela Ware in the women's 3m. They're both in the top four of the World Series season standings.
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