Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins has seen several highly anticipated major league debuts, including Washington National pitcher Stephen Strasburg back in 2010.
None, however, compare to the one Blue Jays phenom Vlad Guerrero is about to walk into when he begins his big-league career Friday night at Rogers Centre.
Guerrero, baseball’s No. 1 prospect, has been the talk of the sport since Wednesday when Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo announced the 20-year-old would be called up in time for Friday night’s game against the Oakland A’s.
“This is like nothing I’ve never seen,” Atkins said of the attention Guerrero has garnered. “I’ve never seen this level of attention of a guy making his debut.”
Born in Montreal and raised in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero is the son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr., who played the first eight of his stellar career with the Expos.
“It’s such a good baseball story,” said Atkins. “He’s more aware than most of playing for a city and a country.”
WATCH: Rob Pizzo of CBC Sports previews Guerrero Jr.’s MLB debut
So just how good is the Jays’ latest phenom? He may well be the team’s best hitter despite not yet suiting up with the big club. After tearing up the minor leagues the last couple of seasons, Guerrero Jr. should already be a middle-of-the-order batter.
The 20-year-old is just the first of Toronto’s top prospects to make his debut this year, with the likes of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and top pitching prospect Nate Pearson seemingly a year or two away.
If all goes according to plan, and these prospects fulfill their promise, the Jays could emerge quicker than most pundits predict, according to Toronto right-fielder Randal Grichuk, recently signed to the team for a five-year, $52-million US contract.
“They have a lot of good, young talented players that are coming up. They have the financial ability to sign some pieces if they feel like we need a piece here or there,” Grichuk told CBC Sports. “And, we want to win. We are dedicated to winning. So, if you put all that together over the next five years, that screams good runs deep into the playoffs and a chance to win it all. Definitely, something I wanted to be a part of.”
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This story originally appeared on CBC