Duh. I think it’s time we have a conversation about Vlad Guerrero Jr. I don’t think I’ve seen a Batter’s Box with him as the lead in some time, so let’s do this. He’s disappointed you. I know this. You know this. Your significant other is tired of hearing about your disappointment with Vlad Jr., but after last night’s 3-5, 2 R, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI night, we’re wondering if he’s turning the corner. In fact, over his past 12 games, he’s slashing .417/.472/.813 with five home runs, 10 runs, and 21 RBI. Yeah, TWENTY-ONE. He’s got 16 in his past four games alone. So let’s look at what might be changing over that time and whether his production will stay up the rest of the year. Keep in mind this is a Batter’s Box piece, so even with him as the lead, we’re not taking the MOST extended look into him.
One trademark of Vlad’s game even through the minors was a pretty high ground-ball rate. He absolutely mashes the ball, but his launch angle needed work. This quote is from Nick Bucher’s July 25 Going Deep on Vlad:
Per Statcast, there have been 45 batted balls that came off the bat harder than 115 mph, and Guererro has been responsible for five of them, including being tied for the second-best overall at 118.9 mph.
It’s wildly impressive, but the outcomes from these five balls in play have to be frustrating for Guererro, as he is only 2-5 with two singles from them. That isn’t a typo; he hit balls at 115.1 mph, 115.5 mph, and 116.8 mph that ended up being outs. The two on which he did reach base, he didn’t even get extra bases.
He doesn’t have another 115 mph batted ball, but his first home run last night did leave the bat at 113.6 mph Ultimately though, we’re not looking at exit velocity. The above quote mostly goes to show the bad luck Vlad has had and the evidence of the problem. The other big problem he’s had has been offspeed and breaking pitches, as he’s got a -3.35 pVAL/c against curveballs on the year and -1.30 against sliders. Last night, both of his home runs came against curves and the double came on a slider, so maybe he’s turning things around on those pitches?
Pitchers really began to identify breaking balls as his weakness in over the past few months, going from 27% breaking balls to 34.7% in July, but Vlad has been slowly responding, slashing his whiff rate from 42% in June to 31.9% in July on such pitches. It’s still high, but it’s improvement, and the more he continues to show pitchers he can’t just be beaten with curveballs and sliders, the more they’re going to be forced to throw him fastballs. And Vladito feasts on fastballs, hitting .329/.437/.575 with four of his 13 home runs.
Is Vlad going to hit .417 the rest of the way? No. But I could see his average ending up somewhere in the .280s as he continues to learn and improve against MLB pitching. Let’s not forget he turned 20 just before the start of this MLB season; guys such as Juan Soto have spoiled us into thinking all hitters need to be superstars right away. Some just need to warm up to things a bit, and Vlad seems to have made some of the initial adjustments that will put him on a path to superstardom.
Mark Canha (OF, Oakland Athletics)—3-3, R, 2B, 2 SB. Canha came into tonight with zero stolen bases in 279 at-bats and a career total of 10 in 1406, yet he recorded TWO stolen bases tonight! It’s safe to say that no, he will not be the savior of your team in the stolen base department.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—1-3, 2B, SB. In his first game with his new team, Puig hit cleanup and stole a base, continuing his quest toward a 20-20 campaign. He should lose three games whenever his appeal is dropped or upheld (because let’s be honest, he deserves it), but his second-half counting stats should improve in a big way in this improved Cleveland lineup.
Byron Buxton (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-5, 2B, 2 RBI, SB. Since returning from his concussion, Buxton is hitting .370 (10-27) with six doubles, a home run, and a stolen. If the Twins would just hit him at the top of the lineup, it seems like he could be a fantasy superstar. … We can dream.
A.J. Reed (1B, Chicago White Sox)—0-4, 4 K’s. Entering the 2016 season, A.J. Reed was one of the biggest names in fantasy after he mashed 34 home runs with a .340 average between High-A and Double-A. He then hit 34 more home runs in 2017, and there was still hope. At this point though, the 26-year-old is fairly washed up, raising his strikeout rate to 42.9% in 49 plate appearances this year at the MLB level. There’s nothing else to discuss here, just a sad story for a formerly very exciting prospect. Reed got optioned after the game.
Xander Bogaerts (SS, Boston Red Sox)—4-4, 2 R, 2B, 2 HR, 3 RBI. With another ridiculous performance, he’s up to .320/.399/.587 with 25 home runs and 171 R+RBI. Bogaerts is making a case to be a second-round pick next season.
Mike Zunino (C, Tampa Bay Rays)—2-3, 2 R, HB, RBI, 2 BB. The two walks bring his walk rate up almost a whole point to 6.8% and his average all the way up to .172. Maybe people will finally get why I’ve hated him in fantasy for so long. This is Travis d’Arnaud’s job now.
Max Kepler (OF, Minnesota Twins)—2-6, 2B, HR, RBI. Another day, another dong for Kepler, who has five in his past seven games and seven in his past 11, giving him 30 on the year. Is a 20% HR/FB sustainable? No. Are the rest of his peripherals awesome? Yup. Keep starting him.
Danny Jansen (C, Blue Jays)—3-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. HE’S ALIVE!!! Since June 23 (104 plate appearances), he’s hitting .289 with seven home runs and 21 RBI, but this was his first multihit game since July 14 as he’s begun chasing more pitches out of the zone and whiffing significantly more. This has raised his putaway rate (percent of two-strike pitches resulting in a strikeout) significantly on all pitch types in July. Here’s hoping he can get back to his June production.
J.T. Realmuto (C, Philadelphia Phillies)—3/5, 3 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI. This time a month ago, people were asking if they should drop Realmuto given his 0-for stretch dealing with a groin injury. Now he’s homered in four out of seven and you love him again. He could push for 30 home runs over a full healthy season, but you’ll have to settle for 20.
Trent Grisham (OF, Milwaukee Brewers)—0-3, RBI. In his first taste of MLB action, the youngster formerly known as Clark couldn’t buy a hit out of the 9-hole, but he drove in a run on a sac fly. It’s only a matter of time before he starts hitting.
Harold Ramirez (OF, Miami Marlins)—2/5, R, 3B, HR, 2 RBI. The whole year, whenever I see Harold Ramirez’s name, I feel like he’s the kind of guy who ends up on your MLB The Show franchise roster in 2026 because it’s just such a peculiar combination of first and last names. Anyway, there’s not much to see here, as Ramirez doesn’t offer much of anything and leads the Marlins with a .415 slugging. Gross.
(Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire)