Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is Finding His Groove at the Plate

After a slow start to the campaign, Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has turned on the jets in the month of May. We take a look at what's behind the improvement in his game.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 10: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays removes his batting helmet at the end of the inning during a game against the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre on May 10, 2024 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that if the Toronto Blue Jays are going to be successful in 2024, they need to get some offensive production out of their top bats in the lineup. In particular, one could argue that the offense runs through first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Montreal, Que. born slugger who possesses hitting genes through his baseball family and enough raw power to hit the baseball over the fence on any given night.

However, this buildup didn’t translate into immediate success to begin the season, as Guerrero and a majority of the Blue Jays bats fell by the wayside as the season progressed through April. By the end of the month, Guerrero owned a paltry .229/.331/.348 slash line to the tune of a .678 OPS. He had amassed five doubles, three home runs, and 11 RBIs through the first month and had drawn 17 walks compared to 28 strikeouts while putting forth a .276 BABIP through 118 at-bats.

The Blue Jays limped to a 15-16 record and were contending for the bottom in the AL East, a division notorious for tough competition and producing multiple 90+ winners almost every season. Guerrero may not have been the worst bat on the team but his plate appearances weren’t contributing much to the bigger picture.

The Jays collectively owned a 98 wRC+ and ranked 17th in the league while falling further down the list in terms of SLG (.364 – 22nd), home runs (27 – 22nd), average (.228 – 23rd), and runs (110 – 26th). Statistically, this was a slightly below-average hitting baseball team full of top names like Guerrero, Bo Bichette, and George Springer who were not meeting expectations to begin the campaign.

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Blue Jays’ Guerrero starting to turn things around at the plate

Since the calendar has turned over to May, the Blue Jays are still looking for some answers at the plate as a whole but Guerrero is not one of those looking to turn things around (at least for the time being).

Through his last 11 games, the right-handed hitting slugger has produced a .405/.480/.500 slash line that has seen him produce four multi-hit games, including a 4-for-5 outing against Minnesota back on May 11. He has reached safely in every single game this month and has generated a hit in all but one contest while producing eight RBIs. Most of his hits have been singles, as Guerrero has produced just two extra-base knocks in May (11.8% of his hits), but the bat is swinging at a much better tune than the previous month with all things considered.

After a slow start to the season, Guerrero is starting to emerge as an offensive threat who can put the ball in play with regularity but can also threaten for extra bases, even if the results haven’t been on display at a high volume just yet.

He has raised his average to .275 on the year and now boasts a .373 OBP to go with his .760 OPS which ranks first among qualified roster players on the Blue Jays squad and third behind Danny Jansen (1.010) and Davis Schneider (.835) with all players considered. Guerrero is tied for the team lead in RBIs (19) and has four home runs on the season with six doubles, both of which rank towards the top on a scuffling Jays squad.

The drop in power has seen his SLG dip considerably compared to normal marks, with a .388 total on the season, but he ranks well percentile-wise in terms of connecting on pitches and exit velocity. He sits above the 90th percentile in hard-hit % (57.3% – 98th), average exit velocity (94 MPH – 97th) and bat speed (75.6 MPH – 93rd)

While he is putting the ball in play at a higher rate and with some velocity, they aren’t leaving the yard or finding gaps in the outfield, evidenced by his 50% ground ball rate and recent decline in fly-balls, sitting at 18.5% and 5% below the current league average. This in turn is leading to the decline in extra-base hits and low slugging percentage although he is seeing a lot of pitches (13% walk rate) and not chasing a lot of pitches outside the zone (22.4%).

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It’s a far cry from the AL MVP-worthy campaign he put up back in 2021 but after a dismal start to the season, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is starting to find a rhythm at the plate that fans have been waiting for since Opening Day.

For a Blue Jays offense that can use some output and production, having one of their top bats start to figure things out in May is a good place to start.