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Vladdy Jr. to join Bisons on Tuesday

The wait is finally over: Baseball's No. 1 prospect is joining the Buffalo Bisons.

Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the 19-year-old phenom who has destroyed pitching in the Double-A Eastern League all season, is being promoted to Triple-A by the parent Toronto Blue Jays.

After an initial report Saturday morning by the Toronto Star, the Blue Jays made Guerrero's promotion official. Guerrero, who is attending his namesake father's Hall of Fame induction this weekend in Cooperstown, will head to Triple-A after Sunday's ceremony to join the Herd for what could be a month-long stint.

The Blue Jays said Guerrero will skip Buffalo's series opener Monday against Lehigh Valley in Coca-Cola Field and will report to the Herd for Tuesday's 7:05 game against the IronPigs, the second of a five-game series. The teams will play a single-admission doubleheader Wednesday at 5:35 and a matinee Thursday at 1:05.

Guerrero, 19, is batting .402 in 61 games this season for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats with 14 homers and 60 RBIs -- astounding numbers even as he missed several weeks with a patellar tendon strain in his knee. He was named Baseball America's Midseason Player of the year for the minor leagues.

The Bisons have been on Vladdy Jr. watch all season, especially after he hit .388 for the Fisher Cats in April and followed that up by batting .438 in May. By numerous accounts, he was going to be in Buffalo by mid-June but was injured during a June 6 game against Akron and did not return to the field until a Class A rehab stint on July 13.

"It's very, very exciting to have the No. 1 prospect in minor-league baseball here," Bisons VP/general manager Mike Buczkowski told The Buffalo News. "We have not had a player come up with this high of a profile ever. We had Stephen Strasburg visiting and we've had injury rehab guys but we have never had somebody that comes with this much hype and this much excitement. It's going to be great to see him play live in Coca-Cola Field."

The Blue Jays have been adamant all season that Guerrero would not skip Triple-A, even as his stats mushroomed and Toronto fans began clamoring for his promotion in the wake of the season long injury struggle of third baseman Josh Donaldson. The organization continues to want Guerrero to work on his defense and to assimilate in the clubhouse, because he speaks little English.

With the trade deadline coming Tuesday, the team reaffirmed that stance as Jays President Mark Shapiro confirmed Guerrero would be heading to Buffalo during an appearance earlier this week on Sirius XM Radio.

"We want to make sure we have the best foundation possible for him," said Shapiro, a former farm director and general manager of the Cleveland Indians. "I've been through some incredible players in a farm system with Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, just some exceptional players. Some of the guys who are the elite hitters end up getting there before they're prepared to be there with routines, before they've really locked away their defense as much as possible.

"For a player that young, there is certainly going to have to be some finishing done at the major-league level but we want to make sure from a teammate persepctive, leadership perspective, defensive perspective, routines, nutrition, all the little things, we have this guy with as a good a foundation possible."

Guerrero's arrival will undoubtedly give the Bisons a boost on the field, where they entered Saturday 46-53 and 7 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, as well as at the box office. The Herd is currently fifth in the International League in attendance, averaging 7,691 tickets sold per date, and still has 17 home dates remaining. Six of those are on weekends and could conceivably be solid draws for Blue Jays fans in Southern Ontario.

Buczkowski said the Bisons are making specific plans for Guerrero's stint, and one announcement by the team is that the ballpark gates will open Tuesday at 4 p.m. -- two hours earlier than normal -- so fans can watch the club's batting practice (weather permitting).

There is expected to be a swell of media from Toronto, as well as a good chance of national writers coming to Buffalo to take a look. Guerrero travels with an interpreter and will likely have a specific media access routine.

"We've never had a player come with this much fanfare but the team simply let it play out as to when he would get here," Buczkowski said. "It was more a thing brought up by fans. If not the first question I was asked around the ballpark this year, it was the second: When is Vlad coming? There's been that general excitement about it all year."

Guerrero signed with the Blue Jays as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2015. He made his pro debut in 2016 at Class A Bluefield (.271-8-46) and exploded last year while splitting time between Class A Lansing and Dunedin (.323-13-76). In March, Guerrero made big headlines on the final day of spring training with a walkoff home run in Montreal's Olympic Stadium, where his father had been a star, to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Guerrero's .402 average this year would lead the entire minor leagues if he had just 10 more plate appearances. His .671 slugging percentage would also top all minor league hitters by an astounding 54 points if he qualified.

 

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