TORONTO — When Yordan Alvarez was recalled by the Houston Astros on June 9, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. already had 36 big-league games on his resume.
Guerrero had seven home runs in 150 trips to the plate at the time.
Alvarez, who homered in his second MLB at-bat, needed only 12 games to hit seven bombs, and hasn’t really slowed down since that scintillating start.
Even though Vladdy Jr. has been red-hot in the second half, it’s Alvarez’s consistency that has him pegged as the heavy favourite in the American League rookie of the year race with a month of baseball left to go.
The overall slash line heading into Friday night’s series opener between the Alvarez’s Astros and Guerrero’s Blue Jays is staggering — .324/.421/.689 with 21 homers and 62 RBI in just 62 games — but the most impressive part is the fact that the 22-year-old has yet to encounter any struggles whatsoever in his first three months in the big leagues.
In June, Alvarez slashed .317/.406/.733 with seven homers.
In July, it was .333/.419/.627 with five homers.
And in August, more of the same, as Alvarez has hummed along with a .322/.432/.711 slash and nine homers.
His manager, A.J. Hinch, noted the consistency in all areas.
“He’s been remarkably consistent with how he prepares and how he goes about his business,” Hinch said Friday night in the Rogers Centre dugout. “He’s handled success extremely well.
That’s something I pay close attention to because these young guys come up and they get thrust into the spotlight and he was hitting so many homers that everybody was talking about him and he has not altered his preparation, his mood or his readiness. If teams have pitched around him or pitched him differently, he’s maintained discipline and I’ve just been incredibly impressed with his overall demeanour at this level, on this team, hitting in the middle of the order and getting all the attention that he’s getting.”
While Guerrero Jr. has made a conversation of it with a .331/.392/.550 slash line and seven home runs in 40 games since the all-star break, Alvarez shows no signs of slowing down and hitting in loaded lineup for a team that’s postseason bound is sure to sway voters when awards season arrives in November.
No matter which offensive stat you look at, it’s in Alvarez’s favour.
The one argument against Alvarez is most of his at-bats have come from the DH spot — he’s made eight starts in left field — but Vladdy Jr.’s 16 errors at third base and poor defensive metrics probably negate that argument.
Historically, offensive stats are the first thing — and in many cases, the only thing — voters look at, anyway.
So how do you get him out?
“Not many people can,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “We’ll see.
“The thing about him is his splits are good against left-handers and right-handers, so that’s tough to match up against him. Hopefully he’ll get himself out.”
Montoyo isn’t lying.
Against righties, Alvarez owns a 1.146 OPS.
The left-handed hitter isn’t having much trouble against southpaws, either, sporting a 1.031 OPS against same-side arms.
Jays outfielder Derek Fisher spent some time with Alvarez in Triple-A this season before being shipped to Toronto at the trade deadline and came away impressed.
“I don’t really know if I have to say much,” Fisher said with a laugh. “What he’s been doing, it speaks for itself. Unfortunately, I didn’t play with him much in the minor leagues until this year. I mean, not only was he one of the best players there, he’s been pretty special in the big leagues.
“He’s one of those guys, if you throw him the pitch he’s looking for he’s not going to miss it. And he hasn’t missed it much.”
Alvarez and Guerrero have a relationship that dates back to 2017 and both are clients of Magnus Sports agency.
“I’m very proud that he’s having the season he’s having right now and hopefully he can continue with that,” Guerrero said through team translator Tito Lebron. “I met him like three years ago when we were playing A-ball. We obviously have the same agent so I met him through my agent when we went to the agency’s office and from that point on we’ve had a good relationship.”
Vladdy isn’t surprised by the season Alvarez is having, either.
“He doesn’t impress me right now because I know what he’s capable of,” Guerrero Jr. said. “I’ve seen him before so what he’s doing right now, I expect that from him, basically. Right now, everything he’s doing is normal. He’s capable of it.”
Over the last month, after the trade deadline dust settled, Vladdy Jr. has been asked numerous times about the rookie of the year race.
It’s not really on his radar.
“To be honest with you, I don’t think about it at all,” Guerrero Jr. said. “I just try to work hard every day and try to help the team win every day. Hey, at the end, whoever wins the trophy, wins the trophy.”