Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Struggling Because of Batted Ground Balls

On a day when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went 0 for 4 (he had an RBI in the Blue Jays’ 4-3 loss to the Braves), one might be asking when Guerrero Jr. is going to finally break out.

Thus far, Guerrero Jr. is hitting .200 on the nose with a .588 OPS. This includes just two RBI and a lone home run. It hasn’t been pretty.

Therefore, it has Mike Axisa of CBS Sports wondering what’s going on with Guerrero Jr. and what it will take to see him break out. Obviously, the concern is the same as it was during his rookie season. Specifically, Axisa talks about Guerrero Jr.’s inability to hit the ball in the air.

The problem: Vlad Jr. keeps hitting the ball on the ground. The two doubles Tuesday night were grounders down the line, and thus far 18 of his 25 batted balls this season have been on the ground. His 71.0 percent ground ball rate is fifth highest in baseball and his average 4.0-degree launch angle is impossibly low. That’s slap-hitting speedster territory (Jarrod Dyson is at 5.2 degrees, for example). Guerrero’s career spray chart is not one of a power hitter:

For reference, the ideal launch angle is in the 10-30 degree range, and elite power hitters like Mike Trout and Aaron Judge have posted ground ball rates in the 30-40 percent range the last few years. Some, like Joey Gallo, are in the 25-30 percent ground ball rate range. There are exceptions to the rule — Christian Yelich has a 48.1 percent ground ball rate since 2018 — but Guerrero does not look like one of them so far.

That’s downright ugly. In addition, it’s not the easiest situation for development season for any Toronto young player. Think about it: you’re a young player trying to find your footing. Obviously baseball players are routine-oriented individuals. And if you’re a Toronto player in your second year, you’re living out of a suitcase. That isn’t the best situation to find your footing and take a step forward in development.

For that, the Jays can blame their country for kicking them out in the streets without food, water, or toilet. Finally, we just need to hope that Guerrero Jr. can make an adjustment and start getting some loft to the ball. Until he does, he’s quite ordinary. However, if he finds a way to do that, he could become a dominant offensive player.