Aaron Judge remembers seeing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in spring training and thinking big things were in store for the Blue Jays phenom.
“Vlad’s about to go off,” Judge told his Yankees teammates, showcasing his skills as a future scout, if not a psychic. Sure enough, Vladito took the majors by storm in 2021, positing a .315/.405/.601 slash line with 46 home runs and 105 RBI. Just 22 years old, the first baseman has an outside shot at winning the Triple Crown with a week left in the regular season.
Despite his potency at the plate, Guerrero Jr. probably won’t finish higher than second for the American League’s MVP award. That honor is expected to be bestowed upon Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani. But don’t tell that to Judge.
“MVP. That’s what he’s proven,” the Yankees slugger said when asked about Guerrero Jr., whose father won the award in 2004. “Any guy that’s about to win a Triple Crown, I feel like is an MVP. It’s been pretty impressive.
“I know a lot of guys on that team have been having really good years, but he’s the separator for them.”
Judge’s admiration for Guerrero Jr. preceded a three-game series between the Yankees and the Blue Jays. That set will begin Tuesday in Toronto with the Jays trailing the Red Sox by a game in the AL wild card race. The Yankees hold a one-game lead on the top wild card spot.
New York is 6-10 against Toronto this season, and the Jays swept the Yankees over four games in the Bronx at the start of September.
With so much on the line and the regular season winding down, a raucous environment is expected up north.
“I think it’s going to be another playoff atmosphere,” Judge said with the Yankees fresh off a three-game sweep of the Red Sox. “They’re a great young team. They took it to us back in New York. They’re fighting just like us for that playoff spot. So it’s gonna be a fun atmosphere and some fun games in Toronto.”