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The Condor Has Landed

Will Ronald Guzmán Live Up To The Expectations?

Ronald Guzman collected his first big-league hit in the 9th inning vs. Houston on April 13, 2018.
@taddmike (via Fox Sports SouthWest telecast)

They call him Condor, mainly because the 6’6, 235lb first baseman for the Texas Rangers has a wingspan that strongly resembles the wingspan of the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere, but probably also because the condor is a common name for a type of vulture and the hope is that Ronald Guzmán can swoop in and devour any baseball thrown his way.

The 23-year-old Dominican, who signed with the Rangers in 2011 along with another large lad who also has a cool nickname (it’s The Big Chill aka Nomar Mazara in case you were perplexed), hasn’t always had it easy in his minor league playing experience. Between 2012 and a short part of 2018, Guzmán slashed .275/.344/.414 (with a .748 OPS) and while he mashed 51 home runs in that stretch of 607 games, the power he was projected to showcase just wasn’t there.

Along the way, there’s been some rumbling about whether Guzmán was ever going to live up to the $3.45 million signing bonus he had received. A statistically significant 2016 season with AA Frisco (.288/.348.477 and 15 home runs) really helped his case out. But Guzmán’s 2017 campaign didn’t play out as well and the rumblings were back, much like his namesake high up in the air circling around a potential meal.

Through it all, Guzmán continued to work on his craft. Sure, the power that most people expected or wanted to see from such a large lad wasn’t there — at least not yet — but condor stayed in the game. “He’s probably more of a hitter than a slugger”, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said, summing it up perfectly.

That’s the story of Ronald Guzmán and his offensive output. His saving grace has always been his athleticism combined with his ridiculous wing span (which provides a nice big target for his infielders). At 6’6, Guzmán is also surprisingly flexible and I’ll go to my grave contending that his splits at first base rival Jean Claude Van Damme’s splits. I won’t entertain any debate on this subject.

With all that said, let’s talk a bit about the 2018 Rangers season. I wrote a few times this offseason about how the PECOTA projections for Texas didn’t exactly look good, and 14 games into the young season, the 4-10 Rangers were on track to meet those projections.

As if things weren’t bad enough, the ghost of the 2014 injury-plagued season decided now would be a good time to haunt everybody, you know, JUST FOR FUN AND KICKS. In quick order, the Rangers lost player after player culminating with the most devastating injury as Elvis Andrus went down with a fractured bone in his right elbow. The loss of Elvis Andrus is monumental for several reasons:

  • it’s his elbow and that no doubt was super painful
  • prior to this projected 6-8 week DL stint, Elvis had never been on the designated list in his 9+ seasons
  • Elvis was leading the team in several categories (avg, OBP, SLG, runs, smiles, laughs, and so many more)

The injury to Elvis put the Rangers in a bit of a tight spot regarding options. In the end, Ronald Guzmán got the call up and what better way to make your MLB debut then in a game versus a divisional and intrastate rival (and current World Series champions)?

Friday night’s game in Houston featured both teams blasting 2 home runs each. George Springer took Cole Hamels yard twice (fun fact: Springer is responsible for 3 of Hamels’s SEVEN home runs this young season). For the Rangers, Joey Gallo and Robinson Chirinos each notched a solo shot in the 7th inning. A walk and defensive miscue by the Rangers gave the Astros a slim 3-2 lead headed into the 9th inning.

Joey Gallo struck out to start the 9th inning and then Guzmán, who had walked once but was so far held hitless, was up with a chance to tie the game, if he could just muscle one out of the ballpark.

Once again the expectations of power started to circle around Guzmán. And on an 0-2 count, condor swung and connected, no, not a home run but a single to right field. Just like the GM had put it, condor didn’t slug this one out of the park, but he hit it to the spot he wanted and the Rangers had a man on base.

Texas would go on to lose this game 3-2 and drop their record to 4-11. In a season where the rotation has been consistently inconsistent, the defense has been jarringly bad, and the injuries have piled on at an almost comedic rate, we were treated to a bit of fun tonight. Cole Hamels had a quality start, the defense only had 2 errors (IT COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE), Joey Gallo sent another ball halfway to the moon, and for the first time since 2009, the Rangers had two players get their first MLB hits in the same game (shoutout Isiah Kiner-Falefa).

Ronald Guzmán — and his extra, extra large gold chain — had a positive start to his MLB career. It’s abundantly evident that the Rangers are going to need to squeeze every ounce of offense out of this lineup if the team has any hope of contending, so the pressure to produce is already there for Guzmán.

The question now is whether this condor will swoop in and feast or just keep circling overhead, forever looking down at what could have been...