Vladdy Report: Phenom's bat still waiting to take off

·MLB Writer
Toronto Blue Jays' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. follows through on an RBI single off Texas Rangers starting pitcher Lance Lynn during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, May 4, 2019. Justin Smoak scored. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s slow start continues. (Tony Gutierrez/AP)

The Vladimir Guerrero Jr. era is officially on, but we’re still waiting for its first signature moment or game.

Vladdy did drive in his first run, but it’s hard to feel too enthusiastic about a week where he registered just two hits - neither for extra bases. There’s no reason for concern at this point as the 20-year-old continues to show an advanced approach at the plate, and despite a wobble or two in the field he’s looked OK at third.

If anything, the phenom’s slow start has created a sense of suspense around him. It’s pretty clear that breaking out is a matter of “when” not “if” and every at-bat has increased stakes because there’s a question of whether it will be the one where Vladdy puts one over the wall for the first time.

Although you couldn’t argue that suspense is more fun than if he was just raking, it’s the silver lining to this cloud. The whole Vladdy saga has been a test of this fanbase’s tolerance for delayed gratification, waiting a little longer for him to heat up is nothing compared to waiting for him to appear.

Here’s what Guerrero Jr.’s first MLB road trip looked like:

The line: 2-for-18 with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts

Best at-bat: Walk vs. Cam Bedrosian on Tuesday

Via MLB.com
Via MLB.com

Any time you can work your way back from 0-2 to earn a walk, that’s a heck of an at-bat. Guerrero Jr. gets bonus points here because the second pitch was decidedly not a strike, but he continued to trust his eye and didn’t expand the zone on some of the competitive breaking balls that followed.

It’s a plate appearance like this that demonstrates two of Vladdy’s best qualities: his patience and his unflappability.

Via MLB.tv
Via MLB.tv

Worst at-bat: Strikeout vs. Griffin Canning on Tuesday

Via MLB.com
Via MLB.com

It’s hard to defend a strikeout where not a single pitch is thrown in the strike zone, and none of them are particularly close. There have been a few times where Guerrero Jr. has looked to be pressing a touch, and this was definitely one of those.

The Angels had a plan to throw Vladdy slider after slider down-and-away and this was a perfect example of that approach working for them. Even as the 20-year-old continues to struggle, it seems unlikely that you’ll see too many plate appearances as ugly as this.

If you do, it could be a sign that his early scuffles run deeper than they appear. Whiffing at the high fastball to end it was particularly out of character:

Via MLB.tv
Via MLB.tv

How they pitched him:

Via Baseball Savant.
Via Baseball Savant.

The overall numbers look relatively similar to what we saw in the first series against Oakland. The Angels and Rangers approached him rather differently, though.

Los Angeles really emphasized sliders away with Vladdy, whereas the Rangers were more inclined to challenge him in the zone with fastballs, especially on Sunday, when they threw caution to the wind a little bit and were rewarded by inducing four groundball outs.

In the long term, it’s hard to imagine Guerrero Jr. getting this many fastballs, but until he makes teams pay he won’t force an adjustment on their part.

Defence and baserunning: Because Vladdy was seldom on base, it remained difficult to get a read on his running. Statcast did release his spring speed of 26.6 ft/second this week, which is hilariously close to Alen Hanson’s 26.8 number, making his constant pinch-running a bit trickier to justify.

On the defensive side of the ball, he was generally sturdy and continued to lay to rest the worst fears that he’d look unplayable at third. While it would be too much to say he’s looked like a plus defender, his arm is undoubtedly strong and he’s done a good job of making the plays in his vicinity.

His most eventful day in the field came on Wednesday. It started off with him making a brutal error with the glacial Albert Pujols running.

But two innings later, he made what was likely the best defensive play of his young career, showing off his arm on a throw from foul ground.

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