You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone that doesn't have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as the top prospect in baseball. He may be only 19 years old, but in 95 games that spanned over four different minor league levels last year, Guerrero slashed .381/.437/.636 with 50 extra-base hits (20 home runs) and 78 RBI.
Those are elite numbers for anyone at any level, and yet, Toronto Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins doesn't believe he's big league ready and will likely begin the season at Triple-A.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. not ready for MLB and needs time to develop in minors, Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins says https://t.co/ZENGdwB7IG— CBS Sports MLB (@CBSSportsMLB) February 27, 2019
Atkins is correct when he mentions his age and how young he is, and he's probably not ready to be an elite defender. So what? He's not just a good offensive player -- he's already a difference-maker.
When he gets called up early in the season once he reaches that particular date that gives the Jays an extra year of control, I don't want to hear Atkins talk about how much better and more prepared he is for the big leagues.
#BlueJays GM Ross Atkins began laying groundwork for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s inevitable demotion at end of spring with these comments to @MLBNetworkRadio. Miraculously, all that development will have occurred by mid-April or so when, total coincidence, his FA is delayed a year! pic.twitter.com/0NiwlVCaUu— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) February 27, 2019
I don't blame teams for doing this. It makes total sense, especially if you aren't ready to compete, but don't lie about it. Don't say Guerrero Jr. has so much he needs to work on and develop before he's ready.
Just like Kris Bryant and last year with Ronald Acuña Jr., this service time game that teams play with players needs to end. The system is broke. Major League Baseball should be incentivizing teams to bring up their young stars when they are ready, which in the case of Vlad Jr. is right now.