Career Profile and Prospect Retro: Carlos Guillen
Carlos Guillen has announced his retirement from baseball. Let's take a look at what he was like as a prospect and how his career ranks in context.
Carlos Guillen was signed by the Houston Astros as a free agent from Venezuela in 1992. He didn't make his debut in North America until 1995, when he hit .295/.350/.429 in 30 games in the Gulf Coast Rookie League, while stealing 17 bases in 18 attempts. An injury limited him to just 29 games in 1996, but he performed well by hitting .330/.405/.491 with 13 steals for Low-A Quad Cities. He wasn't on the radar as a hot prospect at that point, but nowadays someone like that could be considered a sleeper to watch going forward.
Guillen jumped up to Double-A in 1997, hitting .254/.322/.377 in 115 games for Jackson. He stopped stealing bases, but on the other hand he showed improved power and hit 10 homers. He made 35 errors at shortstop and scouts at that point were beginning to project him as more of a second baseman.
Promoted to Triple-A New Orleans for 1998, Guillen hit .291/.350/.457 with 12 homers in 100 games. He was involved in a big late-season trade, going from Houston to the Seattle Mariners along with Freddy Garcia and John Halama in exchange for Randy Johnson. He made his major league debut with the Mariners that fall, going 13-for-39 (.333).
In my 1999 book, I wrote Guillen up as a Grade B- prospect, writing "I think Guillen is going to have a pretty decent career but he could get off to a slow start and will need a patient manager."
Guillen won the second base job in 1999 spring training, but he blew out a knee ligament in early April and played just five games all year. My write-up in the 2000 book said "Guillen is a decent hitter but not a terrific one. . .his defense is very good, though I don't think he's going to be a star."
Guillen played 90 games for the Mariners in 2000, hitting .257/.324/.396. He followed that up with a .259/.333/.355 mark in 2001, then continued to post extremely similar numbers through 2003.
Everything changed in 2004. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers in January, then his bat came alive: he hit .318/.379/.542 with 20 homers and 37 doubles, posting a OPS+ of 142. He remained a very effective hitter with above-average performance every year until 2009, when he entered a decline phase at age 33. Dogged by physical ailments the last few years, he chose to retire this spring.
Guillen played parts of 14 seasons in the majors, hitting .285/.355/.443, 111 OPS+ in 5277 plate appearances. His peak seasons according to fangraphs WAR were 2006 (6.2) and 2004 (5.6). His career WAR was 26.7. Despite beginning his major league career as a second baseman, he ended up spending the majority of his career at shortstop.
As shortstops go, his career WAR ranks 95th, in the neighborhood with Mark Grudzielanek (27.0), Garry Templeton (26.7), and Gene Alley (26.5). Most comparable players by Sim Score are Todd Walker, Gil McDougald, Orlando Hudson, Ronnie Belliard, Red Kress, John Valentin, Jose Vidro, Rich Aurilia, Bobby Avila, and Robbie Thompson.
A pretty decent career, I would say.