The Vladdy Express is close to pulling in for a stop at Coca-Cola Field.
Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., baseball's top prospect and the pride of the Toronto Blue Jays organization, will be promoted to the Buffalo Bisons when he returns from the disabled list, according to a report Tuesday by the Toronto Sun.
Guerrero, 19, has destroyed Double-A pitching this year while playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and was probably a few days away from joining the Herd before suffering a knee injury in early June. He has not played since leaving a June 6 game with Akron after two at-bats, but was still named last week as Baseball America's Midseason Player of the Year for the minor leagues.
Guerrero was batting .407 in 53 games this season, with 11 homers and 55 RBIs. He has a .457 on-base percentage, a .667 slugging percentage and a stunning OPS of 1.124. He reached base in 50 of 53 games and has shown remarkable plate discipline for a young player, with just 21 strikeouts and 20 walks in 224 plate appearances.
Guerrero has been at Toronto's complex in Dunedin, Fla., rehabbing a strained patella tendon and is said to be almost completely recovered while upping his workload. There's a possibility the Blue Jays may make him stay for a few at-bats with the Class A team there before the assignment to Triple-A. Guerrero's activation reportedly could come at any time.
There had been some concern in Buffalo that the Blue Jays might simply return Guerrero to Double-A to get his legs back and help the Fisher Cats' playoff run, as they entered play Tuesday with a half-game lead over Trenton in the East Division of the Eastern League.
The Bisons' front office would like to see Toronto offer a boost to the Buffalo batting order and, of course, provide the inevitable attendance bump a Guerrero promotion would bring from fans both in Buffalo and Toronto. It's expected plenty of Blue Jays fans will head down the Queen Elizabeth Way to get a closer look at Guerrero once he hits Triple-A.
The Blue Jays have been concerned about Guerrero reaching a point of diminishing returns in Double-A and appear ready to make Guerrero take the next step in his career. The Jays have kept him at the lower level mostly to work on his defense. Many scouts who have visited New Hampshire say the Jays would be better served by moving Guerrero across the diamond to first base because of his limited range.
"There's a lot more to professional baseball and his development," Toronto General Manager Ross Atkins said earlier this season when asked by The Buffalo News about Guerrero's burgeoning numbers and a possible promotion prior to the injury. "Look, at some point players do have to be challenged. There's no doubt about that. There's a lot of players that have done what he's done. Most of them are big leaguers fortunately. First and foremost, we're excited about that."
The Bisons are currently on the Triple-A All-Star break, with the midsummer game slated for Wednesday night in Columbus. They resume their International League schedule with a four-game series Thursday at Lehigh Valley, and open a seven-game homestand here Monday night against Norfolk.