What has been a fantastic week so far for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been indicative of his season-long success that’s only accelerated since he reached the International League.
Baseball’s top-ranked prospect mashed his first Triple-A homer Wednesday during his second consecutive three-hit game as Buffalo defeated Gwinnett, 6-1, at Coca-Cola Park. Guerrero fell a triple shy of the cycle while collecting two RBIs and scoring twice.
“Everybody does a little something great, he does all of it,” Bisons hitting coach Corey Hart said. “He’s ready to hit every time, he has great strike zone discipline … he has a better strike zone than the umpire most of the time.
“He’s very, very strong and he’s got a great swing. But hands down, the most important one is he’s a fierce competitor.”
Video: Guerrero whacks first Triple-A homer for Bisons
Through interpreter and Buffalo teammate Michael De La Cruz, Guerrero said he had a one-pitch approach and got a good swing on the homer and he’s held the same gameplan through the past week. The 19-year-old added he’s been working hard at hitting the ball up the middle more in batting practice while maintaining a level swing.
The team tracked down the home run ball for the Montreal-born slugger, who said he would do what he’s always done with priceless mementos — give it to his father, Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has six hits in his last eight at-bats to boost his Triple-A average 69 points to .455 through eight games on the circuit. He rapped out three singles in the series opener against Gwinnett on Tuesday, his second multi-hit effort this week, as well as making a tough defensive play at third base that earned praise on social media from his dad.
Signed by the Blue Jays out of the Dominican Republic for $3.9 million in 2015, Guerrero Jr. was the Eastern League’s leader with 83 hits, 60 RBIs, a .667 slugging percentage, 136 total bases, 30 extra-base hits and 18 doubles for Double-A New Hampshire before going down with a strained patellar tendon in his left knee on June 7.
He returned to the Fisher Cats on July 19 after showing he hadn’t missed a step in a three-game rehab stint with Rookie-level Bluefield and another appearance with Class A Advanced Dunedin in which he had five hits, including three doubles, in 14 total at-bats. He batted .345/.367/.690 with three homers and five RBIs in seven games before being moving up to Buffalo on July 31.
Gameday box score
Guerrero proved to be a thorn in the side of right hander Kyle Wright (1-1) all night Wednesday, putting each strike he saw from the second-ranked Braves prospect in play for each of his three hits.
“He’s just ready to hit every time,” Hart said. “He’s able to go up there and look for a fastball and be ready to hit a fastball, and if they throw something up in the zone other than a fastball that he can hit, he does. I think it’s because he’s ready to hit that fastball that he’s able to adjust to the other stuff.”
Beginning with his first trip to the plate in the first inning, Guerrero jumped on a 1-0 slider and stroked a double to left field before being plated by Blue Jays No. 3 prospect Danny Jansen on a base hit up the middle. Following Dwight Smith Jr.‘s walk in the third, Guerrero lined a first-pitch fastball for a base hit to the opposite field and advanced into scoring position on the throw but was left stranded.
After Smith knocked a single into right with two outs in the fifth, Guerrero crushed a no-doubter just to the left of dead center on a hanging curveball in a 2-0 count.
“Guys are hitting balls tonight into the wind and they’re just ballooning straight up, and the wind could not hold [Guerrero’s] ball,” Hart said. “The center fielder [Danny Santana] really never moved. It almost looked like he was waiting for it to come back — which it never did — or he knew it was gone also.”
Guerrero said he wasn’t sitting on the curveball in that count, which fell in line with Hart’s assessment that his third baseman rarely gets caught guessing in an at-bat.
He got another chance against Wright’s college teammate at Vanderbilt, left hander Philip Pfeifer, but drilled a liner directly to right fielder Xavier Avery.
Toronto’s 21st-ranked prospect Reese McGuire bashed a two-run homer in the sixth off Wright and added an RBI double in the eighth. Recently acquired right hander Jacob Waguespack (4-6) yielded one unearned run on four hits and a walk while striking out six over 5 1/3 innings.
Wright allowed five runs — four earned — on seven hits and a walk with six punchouts over six innings. It was just the second start in the International League for MLB.com’s No. 24 overall prospect, who sports a 4.63 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.
Gerard Gilberto is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @GerardGilberto4.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.