Why Vlad Guerrero has to pass the Meacham test before joining Blue Jays

Why Vlad Guerrero has to pass the Meacham test before joining Blue Jays
There will be no unilateral decisions when it comes to promoting the Blue Jays’ next generation — led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

Manager Charlie Montoyo has made it clear that those decisions will be made by committee, with significant input from director of player development Gil Kim and Triple-A Buffalo Bisons manager Bobby Meacham.

Things were a little different when Meacham was drafted eighth overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1981. Back then, as a middle infielder at San Diego State University, there was the San Diego Union-Tribune and a couple of scouts telling him how great he was. Today, every element of a prospect’s game is scrutinized online.

Still, Meacham says he draws upon his own experience when gauging whether a young player is ready to make the jump to the majors.

“It’s tough to figure out,” Meacham said Friday in Buffalo, before the Bisons’ three-game weekend series against Scranton was washed out. “I start with the idea that they all are talented enough to play up there, every single one of them. Some have more than others, so you’re more sure that they’re ready to play up there.”

Meacham recalled his first big-league camp, in the early 1980s, and having “definitely, absolutely, positively” more talent than some other players who got the call to The Show. The wisdom that comes with experience is key, he said.

“When you know that they’ve heard it enough or they experienced it enough, or they’ve paid attention enough, to where you tell them one more time and something clicks, you know they’re ready,” Meacham said.

Guerrero is widely expected to be the first one promoted, having pounded Triple-A pitching late last year and put up a .412/.500/.824 slashline in 17 at-bats for the Bisons this month. Bichette and Biggio have put up good numbers with the Bisons as well. Bichette is batting .255 with five extra-base hits and eight RBIs in the early going. Biggio has stormed to a .435 average with two homers and five RBIs.

Meacham said Guerrero in particular has learned a lot in a short time. During spring training, Meacham pulled a group of batters aside and pointed out that any time an opposing defence is set up for a left-handed shift, there could be a delayed steal opportunity. In Scranton on April 11, Guerrero found himself in that situation — and stole third.

There have also been moments when Meacham has had to get on Guerrero, like one spring training game where the Jays’ top prospect didn’t run out a pop-up. The 20-year-old third baseman was coming back from a left oblique strain and frustrated that he couldn’t hit the ball like he’s used to. That wasn’t an excuse, Meacham said: “I was like, ‘Hey, man. You have to.’”

The manager seems to focus on the tough moments as he gauges Guerrero’s readiness. The young third baseman has the talent and has shown he can handle the attention, but the big leagues are a “different animal.”

“His ability to handle (Triple-A) is key, because this is nothing compared to what he’s going to have to handle when he goes 0-for-20 and makes five errors in a week, which could happen,” Meacham said. “This is the easy part where everybody loves him and thinks he’s the greatest. The toughest part is knowing there’s going to be days when it’s not going to be like that.”
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