Ronald Guzman Scouting Report: Texas Ranger first baseman Ronald Guzman ranked #19 on the LSB Community Prospect Rankings.
In the days leading up to Opening Day, I'm going to offer write-ups on the 30 players who made the Rangers' LSB Community Prospect Rankings Top 32, and who didn't get traded. I've done this the last couple of years, and I don't want to re-invent the wheel, so some of this will be a repeat of what I've written before, particularly regarding draft history or performance pre-2014. Also, this is not based on my personal observations -- I'm not a scout, and haven't seen most of these guys. I'm just aggregating the numbers and what others say about these players.
So, with that out of the way, let's take a look at Ronald Guzman...
Ronald Guzman is 20 year old lefthanded hitting first baseman/outfielder, who the Rangers gave a $3.5 million bonus to in July, 2011, as part of their huge J-2 class this past year (which may have helped prompt MLB to impose new spending rules on the league).
Guzman is listed at 6'5" and 205 lbs., and as a guy still in his teens, figures to have room to develop physically.
While the Rangers have tended to focus on athletes in their amateur signings, Guzman was viewed at the time he signed as a hitter, pure and simple. Baseball America, in their pre-signing write-up on Guzman, projected that he would get the second-highest bonus of all the J-2 players, despite Guzman having a below-average arm and below-average speed, which would limit him to either left field or first base. BA also noted that there were concerns about his bat speed, which would reduce his power potential, although his swing and "advanced hitting approach" earned high marks. Jason Parks, in September, 2011, said, "I will continue to claim that Guzman is the most impressive 16 year-old prospect I’ve ever seen."
Guzman spent the 2012 season playing for the Rangers’ complex team in the Arizona Rookie League, putting up a .321/.374/.434 line in 235 plate appearances. Guzman ended up at #12 in the Baseball America rankings for the Arizona Rookie League in 2012.
Guzman spent 2013 in low-A Hickory, as part of the incredible collection of teenage talent that included Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, and Nomar Mazara. Guzman had his season shortened with a broken hand, and in 191 plate appearances, he put up a .272/.325/.387 line.
Guzman didn't make BA's top 20 prospect list in the South Atlantic League for 2013, but MLB.com listed him as the 10th best first base prospect in baseball, and he has generally shown up in most folks Ranger prospect lists in the back end of the top 10.
Guzman got some time as a "just in case" guy in the major league camp in 2014, and it looked like Guzman might be ready to take a big step forward in the 2014 season. Unfortunately, just the opposite happened...Guzman went backwards. Sent back to low-A Hickory, Guzman's year there was a disaster. He got demoted in April when he overslept and missed a team bus, and even when he was playing, never got it going. He had a season line of .218/.283/.330, and if you drill down in the numbers, there's not much to feel good about. He didn't hit at home, and he didn't hit on the road. He didn't hit lefties, and he didn't hit righties. He had a 790 OPS in 54 plate appearances in April, but otherwise, his highest single month OPS was 660, in August. Basically, it was a lost year for Guzman.
The offseason rankings heading into 2015 have been mixed. He was 28 in the BA rankings, and didn't make John Sickels' top 20, but Kiley McDaniel had him at #15 in his rankings (above, among others, Ryan Rua, Ryan Cordell, Andrew Faulkner and Alec Asher), and Jamey Newberg has him at #12.
Guzman is still young enough that he's got time to bounce back from last year's problems, but 2015 is a big year for him. One would assume that Guzman will be back in Hickory for a third season, but the team may decide to put him at high-A High Desert, and hope the hitter-friendly Cal League agrees with him more. A lot of folks still believe in the hit tool, but Guzman is reaching the point where he is going to have to start producing, or he's going to end up becoming an afterthought.
As far as the future goes, Guzman is going to advance as far as hit bat carries him. The reports on his hit tool are positive, but its going to be hard for him to carve out a career as a first baseman if he doesn't develop power, which remains a question mark.
If you wanted to dream, what is Guzman's ceiling? His best case projection is as a slow, defensively limited player likely confined to first base, but who can hit for some power and draw walks while hitting .300...basically, Guzman's ceiling is Adrian Gonzalez. More realistically, you're hoping he turns into someone like Brandon Belt, or the 2013 version of James Loney.