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It’s Vladito time

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The most hyped prospect of the 21st century finally makes his debut tonight in Toronto.

Arizona Fall League All Star Game Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

McCovey Chronicles will be covering news from around the league all season long with our new daily MLB Chronicles column.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turned 20 years old just 40 days ago. Tonight, he makes his major league debut with the Blue Jays against the Oakland A’s. The game is getting the national treatment by being on MLB Network, which is remarkable in and of itself. When’s the last time you can recall the league going out of its way to hype the debut of a prospect?

There has been so much hype around the consensus top prospect in Baseball that it feels a little bit surreal. A player with this much talent can’t possibly exist, can he?

Here’s what MLB Pipeline (Jim Callis & co.) has to say about him on the official site of Major League Baseball:

Guerrero is an elite, generational-type hitter who stands out as much for his physical tools at the plate as his approach and capacity for making adjustments. His swing is both explosive and efficient, a combination of electric bat speed, physical strength and off-the-charts barrel control, and it makes him adept at crushing both heaters and secondary pitches to all parts of the field. He has 80-grade raw power and hit a career-high 20 home runs in 2018, but it’s widely agreed that Guerrero is merely scraping the surface of his power ceiling. His pitch recognition and feel for the strike zone belie his age and experience, as he absolutely punishes mistakes, seldom expands his zone and rarely strikes out.

Of course, Vlad Jr. or Vladito is the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero, the one player we all wish had been a Giant. Vlad Jr. has been around the game as much as any other player’s son and given how the majority of Vlad Sr.’s career was in the 21st century, there’s plenty of video:

And, of course, this adorable picture —

Associated Press

— made horiffunny here?

We don’t know if the son will have the same penchant for hitting pitches thrown anywhere near the plate that his father did, but it would really be something if he could duplicate some of Vlad Sr.’s swing wildness:

I’m not suggesting that you abandon all reason and all allegiances to follow Vlad Jr., but this debut is worth being excited about. This isn’t about the next generation of major league talent, it’s about the promise of watching the next Mike Trout — a truly remarkable, unimpeachable talent whose legacy will withstand the test of time. Or not, because it’s baseball, and no prospect is a sure thing.

But Vladito makes it easy to dream big. In just four minor league seasons, 288 games in total, he has a .944 OPS with 44 home runs, 71 doubles, and 6 triples, meaning that 34% of his career hit total (356) have been extra base hits. He also has 150 walks to 139 strikeouts. How many prospects can you recall who’ve had more walks than strikeouts in basically three full seasons before their 21st birthday?

The hype is extraordinary, but warranted.

That’s just some of the third party coverage. The league itself has turned the night into a real event. They’ve even created a minor league highlight reel:

And their league partners are helping out:

Not only is the game being broadcast on MLB Network, it’s MLB.tv’s Free Game of the Day. They’re doing everything they can to make sure people watch this debut.

This represents a hard turn towards Promoting the Game in a way that the league hasn’t really done before. There’s every chance that new viewers will turn in to see a rookie go 0-for-4 with 4 strikeouts, but that’s a risk worth taking. It’s baseball. It’s on all the time, and the people you might not grab tonight you might be able to grab next week.

On the other hand, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. feels about as close to a sure thing as you can get in this unpredictable game, and for that reason alone, you should tune in tonight — actually, since the game’s in Canada, it’s a 4:07 pm Pacific first pitch. Go — go watch now!