No. 1 Prospect Vlad Guerrero Jr. Receives Blue Jays Spring Training Invitation

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2019

Buffalo Bisons' Vladimir Guerrero Jr. swings and misses at a pitch during the first inning of his debut with the team, in a Triple-A baseball game against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, in Buffalo N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

Third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was among the Toronto Blue Jays' non-roster invitees to 2019 spring training, the team announced Saturday.

Guerrero was not only Toronto's top-ranked prospect a season ago, but he was also the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline.

The 19-year-old did nothing but validate his ranking by raking at the plate last season, hitting an incredible .381/.437/.636 while mashing 20 home runs and 29 doubles to go with 78 RBI in 95 games. And he did all that while working his way through the Blue Jays system, climbing the ladder from rookie ball to Triple-A.

Though it was in a small sample size, Guerrero showed he was more than ready to handle Triple-A pitching, hitting .336/.414/.564 with six dingers in 30 appearances with the Buffalo Bisons.

Guerrero got his first taste of the big leagues last year, when he went 7-for-13 with one home run, one double and two RBI in four games during camp. He provided one of the top moments in MLB preseason history when he hit a walk-off home run in Montreal, where his father Vladimir Guerrero played the first eight years of his Hall of Fame career:

Toronto, which finished 73-89 and in fourth place in the American League East, received no shortage of criticism for keeping Guerrero in the minors for the duration of the 2018 campaign, which prevented his service clock from starting. The MLB Players Association was especially critical of the organization's decision, per Sportsnet's Shi Davidi:

"The union's position on service-time manipulation is clear: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and other great young talents around baseball have earned the right to play on the field for a major league team. The decision to not to bring him up is a business decision, not a baseball decision. It's bad for the Blue Jays, it's bad for fans, it's bad for players and it's bad for the industry."

Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro told SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio the franchise believed it was in Guerrero's best interest for him to continue to develop before he made his MLB debut.

Guerrero has a clearer path to the big leagues this year than he did in 2018, as 2015 American League MVP Josh Donaldson has since moved on, leaving Brandon Drury and Richard Urena as Toronto's top options at the hot corner.

Fans will recognize some of the other non-roster invitees as well, as infielders Bo Bichette (Blue Jays' No. 2 prospect) and Cavan Biggio (No. 9) and pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. will all participate in big league camp.

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