MLB Top Prospect and AL Rookie of the Year Favorite Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Makes Highly Anticipated Debut

Posted on: April 27, 2019, 08:23h. 

Last updated on: April 27, 2019, 08:23h.

One of the most eagerly awaited baseball debuts in recent memory took place Friday night when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. played his first major league game for Toronto.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his major league debut for Toronto Friday night. Oddsmakers have the 20-year-old slugger pegged as the favorite to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award this season. (Image: Kevin Sousa/USA TODAY Sports)

The top prospect, who just turned 20 last month, in the game went 1-for-4 with a ninth-inning double that started the game-winning rally in the Blue Jays 4-2 victory over Oakland.

New Jersey sportsbook PointsBet marked the occasion by offering +475 odds on whether Guerrero Jr. would hit a home run in his first game. He almost pulled it off.

Guerrero Jr., the son of a Hall of Famer, wore his father’s Montreal Expos jersey as he arrived at the Rogers Centre Friday. His dad, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. was on hand to watch his son’s debut.

Odds-on Favorite

Even the outs Guerrero Jr. made were impressive. In his first at bat, the ground ball he hit had an exit velocity of more than 106 miles per hour, making it the hardest ball hit all game. In addition to the near-miss home run, he took another ball to the warning track in right center before finally breaking through in the ninth inning for his first career hit.

I was just concentrating on every at-bat, trying to do my job,” Guerrero, speaking through an interpreter, told reporters after the game. “I was excited. … It was just the way I dreamt it. I tried to make contact in my first at-bat and I did.”

It’s that kind of talent that oddsmakers noted when they tabbed him the favorite to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award before the season started.

The SuperBook at Westgate started Guerrero at 4/5 odds last month when it opened futures betting on the award. As of last week, his odds were 1/2 and that was even with him still playing in the minor leagues.

Betting at the SuperBook closes in August. MLB will announce the award winner in mid-November.

Baseball’s Next Superstar?

How special was this debut? Major League Baseball posted a video letter from father to son yesterday to mark Guerrero Jr.’s first game.

“I didn’t know when I gave you my name, that I’d also give you my swing or even my love of the game,” the elder Guerrero wrote.

Guerrero Jr. has been hyped as a can’t-miss prospect for more than a year, and his arrival mirrors the anticipation for such players as Bryce Harper and Ken Griffey Jr. He entered this season as the game’s top prospect in rankings by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus.

He actually could have made his debut last season if not for a knee injury that robbed him of more than a month of action. As a 19-year-old, he hit .381 with 20 home runs and 78 runs batted in just 357 at bats, most of which came in AA and AAA ball against much older competition.

“I’m impressed, to tell you the truth,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told the Associated Press in spring training. “That’s the mark of a star. He’s going to be a star someday, as we all know.”

Many felt Guerrero was ready to play for the Blue Jays at the beginning of this season. However, Toronto officials kept him in AAA Buffalo for the first month of the season. In doing so, the Blue Jays gained an extra year of control over the promising slugger.

Thousands arrived early Friday to watch him take batting practice and see him hit tape-measure shots into the stadium’s upper decks.