Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Ronald Guzman will never be accused of being a swift runner, a graceful runner, or even an average runner, and he’ll probably never successfully appear on TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.” However, it’s easy to overlook the tendency for his running style to imitate the browser game “QWOP” when a 6’5” eighteen-year-old only strikes out 14.1% of the time on a low-A Hickory team that seemed to view strikeouts as part of a balanced diet.
The Rangers signed Guzman out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for $3.5 million, and he played his first professional games as part of the “baby bashers” rookie league team in 2012. In Arizona, he hit .321/.374/.434, ridiculous numbers for a 17-year-old who had no prior professional experience. Guzman started 2013 with similar numbers, though his season started in May after meniscus surgery in late March. An injury towards the end of July ended his already shortened season early, and while his average fell in those last games, it wasn’t due to striking out.
Guzman currently doesn’t have the fence-clearing power of his teammates, though he did beat his 2012 home-run total by three in three fewer games. He does have a contact-oriented approach at the plate and potential above-average power in his future. His walk-rate was not very good in the 49 games with Hickory, despite his low strikeout rate. In some respects, the fact that he doesn’t have the power yet means he’s not focused on the long-ball, allowing him to refine his plate skills. As a defender, Guzman isn’t terrible at his one position, though his previously mentioned lack of lower-half coordination and mediocre arm-strength keep him there.
Though his bat profiles well nearly anywhere, Guzman is a first-base prospect. Not an outfielder/first-baseman, not a third baseman/first baseman, not a catcher/first baseman, but an honest-to-goodness stuck-at-first guy. This, of course, means that he’s not only competing against other first-base prospects in the organization, but against the likes of Joey Gallo and Jorge Alfaro, sluggers in their own right with at least one other position, who will all be coming of age as Prince Fielder likely relinquishes the role of the Rangers’ starting first baseman. Guzman will have to hit well enough and develop the power suggested by his build to earn the regular major league job over more positionally-flexible candidates.
As far as major league comparisons go, Nathaniel Stoltz (of Fangraphs.com), who saw him with the Crawdads last season, likened his stance and frame to Jim Thome. “Even though he's young and inexperienced, he has more polish than a lot of the highly-touted high-upside guys in the system. If he starts clearing fences, look out,” Stoltz said about Guzman’s potential. Other prospect evaluators see similarities to current MLB first basemen like Freddie Freeman.
Guzman will most likely start the year back in Hickory, and despite repeating the level at 19 he’ll still be around two years under the average age of South Atlantic League hitters. As an 18-year-old, he only played 49 games with the Crawdads due to injury, but if he can stay healthy and start 2014 the way he started 2013, a mid-season jump to Myrtle Beach would be likely. That would put Guzman on a timeline to end up in Frisco in 2015, and possibly, if everything goes perfectly, taste a cup of coffee in late 2016.
Kate Morrison is a recent Baylor graduate currently working as a freeelance writer. She likes minor league ballparks, music and the nickname 'Roogie.' That last one will be explained in due time. You can follow her on Twitter at @unlikelyfanatic.
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