Vlad vs. Vlad? Wait, What?

How does the old saying go: “Like father like son?” Well the Guerrero family is no different than any normal family in this respect. Except there is one major difference that sets this father and son duo apart from most families: They both play or played professional baseball in the major leagues. One created a reputation as one the best contact hitters in the sports history, while the younger is already building quite the reputation of his own.

A 21-year-old ballplayer from the Dominican Republic named Vladimir Guerrero Sr. began his professional baseball career back in 1996 with the Montreal Expos. While in Montreal, Guerrero was primarily the starting right fielder and tended to hit in the middle of the lineup for the Expos. According to baseball reference, Guerrero was first called up on September 19th of 1996. He got his first hit during his first game by going 1 for 5 against the mighty Atlanta Braves of the 1990’s. Because Guerrero was a late-season call up, he only had the opportunity to play in nine games for his club.

Here were his stats for these first nine games (according to baseball reference):

Unfortunately the start of young Guerrero’s career was not always rainbows and sunshine. At first glance you may be thinking that he just needed time to figure everything out. He had a .185 batting average and a single homer with a -0.1 WAR in nine games where he got 27 at-bats. This led to a full offseason to recover from the shock of being called up to the big leagues, as well as a full offseason to prepare for what was going to be Guerrero’s first full big league season. In that offseason, Guerrero had a chance to do everything he possibly could to show that he belonged in the big leagues playing for the Expos.

In the 1997 season he posted a very strong sophomore performance (in his rookie year of eligibility), posting a .302 batting average and a .350 on-base percentage over 90 games where he had 354 plate appearances.

After a slow start to his career, it was long before Vlad Sr. started mashing in Montreal. Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

These stats were just the tip of the iceberg for this legend in the making. By the end of Vlad’s career, he posted a 59.4 WAR over 16 years of professional baseball where he played with the Montreal Expos, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Texas Rangers, and the Baltimore Orioles. Over this hall of fame career, Guerrero posted a career batting average of .318, an OBP of .379, 449 home runs, 1496 RBIs, and 9059 plate appearances over 2147 games played. Not to mention becoming a nine-time all star and the 2004 AL MVP. The numbers suggest a truly Hall of Fame-worthy career for a player who began his MLB career as a 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic.

Now that we have a solid understanding for his father, it’s time to take a look at Vladimir Guerrero Jr. This 20-year-old phenom from the Dominican Republic was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015. If we fast forward a few years, Young Vlad Jr. is rated the as #1 prospect for the 2018 and 2019 prospect list according to the MLB Prospect Watch.

Vlad Jr. made his Major league debut with the Toronto Blue Jays on April 26th of 2019 against the Oakland Athletics. To follow in his father’s footsteps, Vlad jr. got his first hit out of the way in his debut, when he went 1 for 4 with a double.

Guerrero got off to slow start but has started to heat up for the Blue Jays. Photo by Frank Gunn / Associated Press

The young phenom currently has a similar stat line to his father’s first season in the bigs, according to baseball reference:

As you can see, this young ballplayer has lots of room to improve over time. In 71 plate appearances, he has a trio of home runs (with two on May 14th in San Francisco). He has a .210 batting average, .310 OBP and 13 hits so far in his young career. These stats are not telling of how high his peak will be or when he will reach it. If you compare it with his father, then we will be seeing Vlad Jr. hanging around the big leagues for a long and prosperous career.

Much like his dad, Guerrero Jr. struggled out the gate. In his first nine game he slashed just .152/.243/.182, but has started trending up since then. In his last eight games he has hit .276, also clubbing three dingers. His .217 BAbip also indicates that he has likely been unlucky in the first 17 games of his career.

Now obviously we will all have to wait to see what happens with young Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s career. It will be interesting how he ends up performing, but his path is currently shaping up very similar to his father’s career. But only time will tell us for sure…..

Fun Facts according to Baseball Reference:

  • Both players share the same jersey number: 27
  • Vlad Sr. did not make his debut in Montreal, instead he debuted in Atlanta. His son Vlad Jr. debuted in Toronto and was born in Montreal. The distance from Toronto to Atlanta is about 1,224 miles, while the distance between Toronto and Montreal is about 330 miles.  
  • Vlad Sr. faced Steve Avery for his first at-bat and in the top of the 2nd he grounded out to the 3rd basemen Terry Pendleton.
  • Vlad Jr. faced Mike Fiers for his first at-bat and in the bottom of the 2nd he grounded out to the 1st basemen Kendrys Morales.
  • For the two players there was a 2 minute difference in the game duration times. Vlad Sr.’s debut game lasted 2 hours and 52 minutes, while Vlad Jr.’s Debut lasted 2 hours and 50 minutes.
  • So far both players share a -0.1 WAR for their first season in the big leagues.
  • Both debuts occurred as night games. Vlad Sr.’s game started at 7:41 pm local time, while Vlad jr.’s game started at 7:07 pm ET.
  • Both debut games were decided in the ninth inning. Montreal won Vlad Sr.’s debut in the ninth on a David Segui RBI single, which was followed by a home run by Moises Alou. Toronto won Vlad Jr.’s debut in the ninth on a Brandon Drury home run.

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