How positionless Vladimir Guerrero Jr. fits into Toronto Blue Jays’ 2021 on-field image


Imagining the infield Charlie Montoyo will send on opening day – whenever it can be – is pretty much impossible at this point.

There are moving parts everywhere for the Toronto Blue Jays, in addition to upcoming off-season moves.

A central figure in all of this is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a 21-year-old without a post and without a bat who has yet to live up to the huge expectations that come with being the former No.1 overall in the game.

Last July, after showing up to summer camp out of shape, the Jays made the on-the-spot decision to move Guerrero to the other side of the diamond at first base, a move the majority of baseball watchers had seen it as a long-term adjustment anyway.

There is no doubt that this sent a message – an embarrassing message.

From there, Guerrero began to lose weight and those around him saw his routines improve.

It is debatable how much weight Guerrero lost and when, but the story is that he showed up in Toronto after the first lockdown around 280 pounds and was finally able to drop to around 250 in October.

There is an end goal to all of this and it revolves around a game weight in the order of 235 pounds.

The belief – and everyone is on the same page on this on both camps – is that this is the optimal size for Guerrero, whether it’s balance and power on the plateau or move sideways on the ground.

It has become clear that Guerrero wants to prove he can play third base, and the Jays will allow him to play the Dominican Winter League position for Escogido Baseball Club. But with the club clearly going into contention – and the stated goal is to improve defensively – the best way to describe the situation at this point would be to call it a third base option, rather than a player. third base.

“It’s such an interesting situation because, as you know, we are not in a position to refuse the authorization and from the start his motivation was to play third base, to put himself in a physical state where he could be more than just efficient there, and we, ”Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week. “We have supported the progress he has made and are obviously excited that he is improving every day and that is something that we work with him every day taking into account all the risks.

The reason for leaving the third base door open for a crack is simply because there is no reason to close it, as the Jays believe the arm and agility will work at the position if it is in the form in which it should be.

This crack is probably just a shard in reality.

“This is something we talk about every day and that we will use every day [this off-season] to factor in its progress when we make those decisions, ”Atkins said. “Whether that ends up being a door left open or a door open will depend on each day of its offseason and the opportunities that arise as they arise.

“I would just like to have every bit of information before I decide to open or close that door at third base.”

Remember, this is also not an unusual scenario for an extremely talented corner fielder coming into the big leagues.

Albert Pujols split his time between first, third and left fielder in his first three seasons from 2001 to 2003, before settling in the cold corner for a Hall of Fame career in his fourth campaign.

Even with Miguel Cabrera, who followed Pujols’ lead, splitting his time as a mostly excruciating third baseman / left fielder, before moving to first base in his sixth league season.

Both of these players have performed well despite the defensive uncertainty early in their careers.

That being said, the Jays aren’t looking for first base players in free will or the trading market and it’s very likely that Guerrero’s first base glove will be the most used next spring in Dunedin.

On the other hand, the Jays are extremely interested in a third base update if they can make it happen, which would leave Guerrero, Rowdy Tellez, and Cavan Biggio in a pinch as the first base group.

Right now, every infielder with a famous last name faces positional uncertainty.

The Jays’ continued interest in shortstops Bo Bichette to note, while Biggio’s versatility made it to the second, third or super utility.

But Guerrero’s glove and body composition have been under a microscope since joining Double-A at the age of 19 in 2018, and nothing has changed.

“If he gets to where he was and the overall body composition, weight and agility he had when he was in Double-A, it’s realistic to think he’s an impact player at the third base, ”said Atkins. “I don’t know how many games, I don’t know for how long, but limiting a 21-year-old doesn’t seem like the best thing to do.”

The only downside to allowing Guerrero to continue dabbling in the hot corner is that time and those reps could be used to improve defensively at first base, the place everyone thinks is still their longtime home.

“It was a lot to ask him last year and I think the experience he had [at first base] will come in handy if that’s where he ends up playing, ”Atkins said. “It’s not just about experience. A lot of it is athleticism and the confidence to put your body in the right positions to have the agility of being ready to move in different directions. It’s a combination of those two things at the start.

With overall defensive improvement an organizational priority and Guerrero facing an uphill battle to reach even slightly below par with the glove, the third base experience could be in the later stages. But it’s the lessons learned in overcoming the first adversity he encountered in his career that can end up paying off in the end.

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