Vladimir Guerrero Jr’s breakout is real, and it’s spectacular. With Mike Trout on the injured list, Guerrero and Shohei Ohtani look like the two front-runners for American League MVP.
Don’t screw this up, Buffalo.
While Guerrero currently has the best OPS in the majors, the majority of his season has been built in Toronto’s temporary home, the Dunedin ballpark. Junior has a .410/.521/.897 slash at home (with 11 homers in 21 games), compared to a .273/.379/.475 slash on the road (five homers, 28 games). The Blue Jays will move north in a few days, and Buffalo will take over as home base.
Vlad’s road stats still resemble a good player, of course. But those home stats are the numbers of a god. Buffalo’s park was a good place for offense last year, so perhaps Guerrero and friends will do just fine there. Guerrero slashed .323/.380/.566 at Toronto’s emergency home last year (his OPS dropped 279 points on the road).
If you look at Toronto’s full roster, the home bias shows up. The Blue Jays have the highest home OPS in the majors, but it drops to 17th in the road split. Bo Bichette’s OPS spikes about 200 points at home.
There’s a flip side to this, the Toronto pitching staff. The Jays have a 4.34 ERA at home, a 3.60 ERA on the road. Steven Matz has been playable in road starts (3.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) and struggling in home starts (5.23/1.64).
Of course, those Buffalo dimensions (325 feet down the lines, 404 feet to dead center) do look cushy. Heck, it’s only 113 meters to the power alleys. Even if Buffalo doesn’t turn into the pinball machine we had at Dunedin, there should be plenty of crooked numbers in upstate New York.
Alek Manoah outstanding in debut
No matter where Toronto is playing, I’m excited to see what rookie right-hander Alek Manoah is able to do. Manoah made his big-league debut at the Yankees on Thursday afternoon, and was a lawnmower: six scoreless innings, two hits, two walks, seven strikeouts. Aren’t rookies supposed to look nervous?
Maybe nervousness melts away when you’re 6-foot-6 and have four plus pitches. Manoah only needed three dominant Triple-A turns (18 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 27 K) before Toronto tapped him on the shoulder.
The AL East isn’t quite as menacing as it used to be — New York’s makeshift lineup Thursday will tell you that — so I’ll approve Manoah for all mixed-league formats. The strikeouts are going to play immediately. He was the 11th overall pick in the 2019 draft, so there’s pedigree here. And the tape certainly passes the eye test.
Manoah has been aggressively added in Yahoo leagues, but is still available in about 40 percent of the room. Let’s get to work on that. He’ll host Miami next week in Buffalo, the season opener for Sahlen Field.
Jordan Romano dominating in relief
As we finish up Toronto’s day of beauty, let’s say some nice words about Jordan Romano, who might be taking over in the bullpen. Romano grabbed a save at New York and has settled into a nifty groove. Over his last 14 innings, he’s produced wipeout numbers: 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 20 K. The league is batting .106 against him over that span.
Of course, when you’re dominating that emphatically, there’s no guarantee your club will dedicate you to the ninth-inning closer role. Perhaps Romano could be more useful pitching earlier in games, when critical moments arise. But given all the problems Toronto’s had securing a closer — Kirby Yates was hurt before the season started, and surprise hotshot Brandon Merryweather went down early in April — perhaps Romano could be the handshake chairman for this contending club.
So long as Romano gets high-leverage work, I won’t complain. This far his 19 appearances have led to three wins and two saves. Keep them coming, Toronto. Romano is your guy.