Son of nine-time All-Star, 2004 AL MVP ranked No. 4 on MLB.com Top 30 list
By Jesse Sanchez and Gregor Chisholm
There's a familiar name set to begin his journey through the professional ranks.
The Blue Jays signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for $3.9 million. Guerrero is ranked No. 4 on MLB.com's Top 30 International Prospects list.
The son of nine-time All-Star and 2004 American League Most Valuable Player Vladimir Guerrero, the right-handed batter could be the best overall hitter in the class, and some consider him the best overall player this year.
"Those kind of guys don't come across very often," said Blue Jays special assistant of Latin American operations Ismael Cruz on Thursday. "So it was either play all of your marbles on one guy or it was go out and get a couple of players that are fine, but for us, Vladimir is a difference-maker. He has the potential to be a very, very special kid."
Guerrero Jr. has big raw power, and he continues to evolve as a hitter. He reminds some scouts of his father and has shown the ability to hit a pitch almost anywhere it is thrown, but his overall body frame is much bigger than his father's was at the same age.
Some scouts wonder if Guerrero Jr.'s growing body will eventually force him to move out of the outfield, but others are less concerned about his build because of his family pedigree. The comparisons to his father likely will continue for years, and while the raw power might be similar, there also are a lot of differences between the two.
"He doesn't have his dad's arm or speed, have to be truthful on that, but he's only 16," Cruz said. "He has a better bat now than his father did at that age and it's not a swing that's going to go away, he's had it for a long time and he has always hit. ... He's hit all his life and he's always faced competition above him."
In accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool with four slot values based on the team's record in 2014 for the international signing period, which started Thursday. Toronto's initial overall pool total for this year's signing period was $2,324,100.
Thursday afternoon, the Blue Jays received three international bonus pool slots (Nos. 27, 57 and 117) for a total of $1,071,300 from the Dodgers in exchange for No. 24 prospect Chase De Jong and Minor League infielder Tim Locastro to offset some of the cost of Guerrero.
Teams that exceed their pool by 0 to 5 percent have to pay a 100 percent tax, and teams that exceed their pool by 5 to 10 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $500,000 during the next signing period while also paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage. Teams that exceed their pool by 10 to 15 percent are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next signing period while also paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
In the most severe penalty, teams that exceed the pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods, in addition to paying a 100 percent tax on the pool overage.
"I've been doing this for a while in the international market and this is not easy, you go out there and see a kid who is 15 and you try and project him," Cruz said. "There isn't a guy who has a crystal ball to say this guy is going to make it, so basically you go on tools and the kid.
"Since I've been doing this I haven't seen a kid with this power. He has pitch recognition for his age and this kid has been playing ball all of his life. This kid is not about the money -- he has a lot of money -- he plays because he likes it."