We knew this moment would come. We just didn’t know it might happen this soon. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is likely to make first base his primary position dancing, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (via Twitter).
After one full season at third base, the 21-year-old power phenom will focus his attentions on becoming a primary first baseman and designated hitter. Vlad committed 17 errors in 94 starts at the hot corner in 2019. The high level metrics didn’t care much for his effort either (-9 DRS, -9.4 UZR). Statcast’s Outs Above Average pegged Vlad last in the league (tied with the Twins’ Jorge Polanco) with -16 OAA.
Offensively, there’s little doubt that Vlad Jr. has perhaps one of the most prodigious power strokes in the game, even at this kind of young age, and this move allows him to focus on what he does best. Vlad Jr. stroked 15 home runs over 514 plate appearances while slashing .272/.339/.433 as a 20-year-old. The move over the diamond was an eventuality, and in a few ways, it’s wise to make the move as soon as possible as opposed to spend development time at a position with out a long-term future. It’s truly possible Guerrero Jr. eventually ends up as a primary designated hitter, but he’ll take to his hand at first in 2020.
With Vlad Jr. shifting over to first, Travis Shaw expects to obtain most of the playing time at third, per Nicholson-Smith. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hasn’t played any third, nevertheless the infielder/outfielder could presumably pick it up, while 2nd baseman Cavan Biggio played a little bit at the hot corner in Triple-A. Breyvic Valera can be capable of handling third.
Shaw, signed as a free agent, is coming off a bizarrely disappointing showing in 2019 as he hit just .157/.281/.270 across 270 plate appearances with the Brewers. That allowed the Blue Jays to snag him on the inexpensive, as they’ll hope that he rebounds to something nearer to his career line of .243/.327/.451.