The legend of Blue Jays prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. continues to grow.
Saturday night Vlad Jr. crushed a home run in his fourth consecutive game, and he is now hitting .441/.535/.853 in 11 Triple-A games as a 19-year-old. He is more than seven years younger than the average International League player.
Here is Saturday's homer:
Outfielder-aided? Possibly. Looks like the ball hit the right fielder's glove and hopped over the fence. Still, that's a 19-year-old kid ripping a line drive to the wall the other way. Impressive.
Between Double-A and Triple-A, Guerrero is now hitting .406/.460/.690 with 24 doubles, 18 home runs, and nearly as many walks (30) as strikeouts (31) around a knee injury this season. Video game numbers. MLB.com ranks Vlad Jr. as the top prospect in baseball and it is easy to see why.
On Sunday, the Blue Jays announced they're calling up one of their top prospects, but it's not Guerrero. Catcher Danny Jansen is getting the call instead.
The 23-year-old Jansen owns a .275/.390/.473 batting line with 12 home runs and nearly as many walks (44) as strikeouts (49) in 88 Triple-A games this season. He played in the Futures Game last month and MLB.com ranks him as the 73rd best prospect in baseball.
Furthermore, right-hander Sean Reid-Foley, another one of Toronto's better prospects, is expected to get the call to make his MLB debut Monday.
Reid-Foley, 22, has a 2.98 ERA with 146 strikeouts and 46 walks in 126 2/3 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A this year. The Blue Jays called up left-hander Ryan Borucki a few weeks ago and he's been excellent (2.81 ERA in eight starts). Reid-Foley will join Borucki in the rotation and they'll throw to Jansen, their batterymate. The youth movement is underway in Toronto.
Not for Guerrero, however. The game's top prospect will remain in Triple-A and, with each passing week, it seems less and less likely the Blue Jays will call him up this year. And hey, we are talking about the 19-year-old kid who missed a month with a knee injury and has about two weeks worth of Triple-A experience. Keeping him down is not the craziest thing in the world.
That said, manipulating Guerrero's service time to gain an extra year of control may be too good to for the Blue Jays to pass up. Keeping Vlad Jr. down the rest of this year and the first three weeks of next year equals gaining his age 26 season in 2025. That's far away! But it's smart business. That's a potential peak year, and for Guerrero, a peak year could equal an MVP candidate.
If this is indeed the case and the Blue Jays are keeping Guerrero down to delay his free agency, the team is not doing anything wrong. Clubs game service time all the time. Every year, without fail. The Yankees did it with Gleyber Torres this year. The Cubs did it with Kris Bryant a few years ago. That's baseball these days. Teams manipulate service time to get that extra year from their top young players.
It's a bummer, of course. The best and most talented young players should be in the big leagues, in my opinion. Instead, they're kept down strategically. Vlad Jr. will get the call soon enough -- the Blue Jays could still call him up before the end of the season -- and he'll rake, and everyone will love him. For now, the Blue Jays are starting their youth movement, only without their best young player.