On Friday it was announced by Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo that Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be moved to first base for the majority of the abbreviated season. It was a move that many people saw coming at some point in the young superstars career given his size and mobility issues, but for most the thought was that it would be a little further down the road.
For the Blue Jays and Montoyo however, this move couldn’t have come at a better time. In this abbreviated season, there is going to be plenty of time to work things out due to the absence of a Minor League season. With each team supporting a 60 man roster, many teams will have to find time to keep their non roster players active with extended practices along with more and more intrasquad games.
Given the lack of a 162 game season, it is likely that the 21 year old Guerrero should have plenty of legs underneath him, giving him ample time to perfect the craft over at first base. Compare that to a normal season in which he would be expected to learn on the fly every single day in the lineup, with minimal time outside of games to work on technique.
This will come as a massive benefit to both the Blue Jays and Vlad. While first base may seem like an easy switch to people on the outside, to quote Brent Jennings as Ron Washington in the movie Moneyball “it’s incredibly hard.”
There are many little intricacies to the position that take years to perfect if you expect to play the position at an elite level that aren’t really noticed. With everyday work, Vlad should have the position figured out by the time the team reaches its competitive peak.
On top of the on field performance, Vlad’s move to first base opens up many more opportunities for the kids in the organization to make a big splash at the major league level.
When looking at the Blue Jays prospect system, there are three names that stand out above the rest. One of those, Nate Pearson, is a starting pitcher who is likely to crack the roster this season regardless of where Guerrero is located on the diamond this season. The other two, Jordan Groshans and Austin Martin are projected in this lineup as third basemen for the long term future.
With Vlad’s move to first, it is entirely possible (though probably unlikely) that you could see Groshans begin to take some Major League reps at third base as soon as this year. It will take some major strides for the 20 year old number two prospect, but with no big names like Guerrero in his path, the position is his for the taking.
Austin Martin, on the other hand, is in a bit of a different situation. The 21 year old, who was drafted fifth overall this June, is the older of the two third base prospects typically giving him the leg up. Unfortunately for him, with the cancellation of the MiLB season, he is unlikely to see professional at bats until 2021, making him a giant question mark for the Major League roster.
Groshans on the other hand, already has two full Minor League seasons under his belt, and has shown that he may be capable of handling major league pitching.
The Vlad move does open up two potential options for Martin. First and foremost, he is an unbelievable backup plan if Groshans doesn’t live up to the hype and turns into a bust. More importantly, with his versatility, Martin can turn his attention towards perfecting himself in the centerfield position (a glaring hole for the Blue Jays throughout their entire organization) and make himself a potential Major League option for the 2021 season.
All in all, the move is perfect timing for both the player and the organization. If Vlad at first allows the Blue Jays to roll out a lineup that includes Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Groshans, AND Austin Martin, then it makes much more sense to try and implement that as soon as possible, bringing the compete window even closer than it was yesterday. Whether the move across the diamond works out or not for Vladdy remains to be seen, but at the very least it creates one more very intriguing storyline to watch out for in this already outrageous season.