A game for the ages tonight. It could be one to tell your kids about years down the road, as baseball’s present meets its future. Or at least, that’s the hope. Toronto make their way to southern California to take on the Angels thereby making a chance to see two of the most talked-about players in the game on one field. Vladimir Guerrerro Jr., meet Mike Trout!
Trout is of course, in many people’s opinion, far and away the best player in the game right now. A seven time All Star whom we suspect might have put up better than his rather excellent .307 average and 246 home runs since he first showed up in the Majors in 2011, had he been backed by a slightly better team than his Angels have been most of this decade.
Guerrero, is of course, the Blue Jays blue chip prospect, finally promoted to the Majors last week after being ranked the #1 prospect in the sport for the last two years. He’s played just 3 games thus far and tonight will be the first for him outside the friendly confines of the home crowd in Toronto.
The two seem to have a lot in common. Both are about the same size – 6’2”, around 240 pounds give or take. Both are right-handed. Both wear #27 for their team. And both entered the league young, with lots of hype and attention.
In Trout’s case, he hit “the show” at just 19, mid-season 2011, a mere two years after being drafted. Guerrero just turned 20 (meaning that technically, if he wanted to he could legally have a beer to celebrate after the game at Rogers’ Centre but not on the road!) after a fairly quick ascension through the minor league ranks, culminating in a .381 average, 75 RBI in an injury-shortened 98 games last year between levels of the minors.
So far, Guerrero’s looked fine, but not “superstar”. He’s surprisingly 1-4 in each of his first three games, making for a .250 average. He’s had one double, an important one in the 9th on Friday (his debut) when the score was tied. Brandon Drury homered later to make Guerrero’s hit the winning run. People worried about his defence but so far he’s looked at home at Third Base, making a few smooth grabs and throws and notching 6 assists so far.
Lest Toronto fans worry, should we look back at Trout’s debut almost 8 years ago? He debuted against Seattle, hitting 9th, playing Center field and wearing retro-California Angels gear. He flew out in his first at bat. He ended up going 0-3 in his first game, although like Guerrero in his first game, he hit one right to the wall that was so close to his first homer. That in fact, came 16 days later against Baltimore’s Mark Worrell.
Trout actually looked entirely ordinary that first season. He hit just .220 with a .671 OPS (which was about 11% below league average!) and 5 home runs through the 40 games the Angels ran him out to the field. Hardly the numbers of someone compared to Babe Ruth or Willie Mays. However, by the next season, 2012, his first full one, he hit .326, with 30 homers and 49 stolen bases, and hasn’t looked back to date. This year, in 26 games, he’s hitting .305 but has a phenomenal 28 walks, making for an unearthly .496 on base. He’ll be going up against veteran Clay Bucholz tonight, a pitcher he’s 5 for 10 with one home run vs. in his career.
Guerrero will be facing Griffin Canning, who’ll probably be having some butterflies in his stomach. It’s Canning’s major league debut. He’s a righty, and so far in the very limited sample, all of Vlad’s hits have been off righties, although he’s only had 2 at bats against southpaws.
So watch and enjoy. At our end, we’re hoping for some fireworks from Guerrero’s bat, but even if that doesn’t happen, it’ll be a game to remember… and worth remembering that even someone as good as Mike Trout had a learning curve at one time.