Prospect Smackdown: Carlos Quentin vs. Joel Guzman
BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES
Quentin: Carlos Quentin was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2003 draft. A very successful college player at Stanford, Quentin's draft stock was hurt slightly by the fact that he needed Tommy John surgery. He was the 29th overall pick, but could have gone in the top 15-20 picks were it not for the injury. Quentin recovered from the surgery successfully, and has been a dominant hitter at all three levels of the minor leagues. He has a strong work ethic and is regarded as emotionally mature.
Guzman: Joel Guzman was signed by the Dodgers as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2001. One of the most sought-after players in Dominican history, he signed for a record bonus in excess of $2.2 million. He struggled early in his career, but started to put things together in 2004 at the age of 19. Guzman had some disciplinary problems initially, but has outgrown this and is now regarded as a hard worker.
Advantage: Both Guzman and Quentin had high profiles as amateurs and were well-known to scouts. Quentin had plenty of high-pressure experience playing for Stanford, but Guzman has been very young for his leagues. Guzman's early discipline problems seem a thing of the past, so in terms of background and intangibles they seem pretty even to me.
PHYSICALITY and TOOLS
Quentin: Quentin is a righthanded hitter and thrower, well-built at 6-1, 225 pounds. He is a fine athlete who also played football and basketball in high school in addition to starring on the diamond. His running speed is slightly above average, and he shows good baserunning instincts even though he isn't a huge stolen base threat. He used to have a very strong arm; injury has reduced the zip on his throws, though they are still accurate. His feel for the game helps his outfield defense; he is a very strong defender at either corner, and runs well enough to play center field without killing you, although in the long run he needs to be at a corner. He has a very quick bat, with a smooth stroke with a touch of loft. He shows power to all fields, pulling the ball or going to the opposite field as needed. Quentin crowds the plate and gets hit by a lot of pitches, but his bat is quick enough to handle any mistakes on the inner half. He has no major weaknesses as a hitter.
Guzman: Guzman is a righthanded hitter and thrower, tall, lanky, but strong at 6-5, 225 pounds. He is an excellent overall athlete. His running speed is average but good considering his size. Although not a large stolen base threat, he's improved his reads on the bases and is increasingly skilled as a baserunner. His best defensive tool is his arm, strong enough for third base or shortstop. The Dodgers moved him to the outfield this spring, and he has more than enough arm for right field. He needs to improve reading balls and running routes, but the early reports on his defensive transition are positive and he is expected to become a good outfielder with experience. With the bat, Guzman has excellent bat speed and plus/plus power potential. He can be fooled by breaking balls at times, leading to strikeouts, and in general he needs to improve his plate discipline. If he can refine the strike zone, he is capable of Miguel Cabrera-type numbers.
Advantage: Both players are athletic, although Guzman's physical ceiling is a tad higher. . .he has more raw power and a stronger arm than Quentin. Quentin has fewer flaws as a hitter right now, but he's also older than Guzman. Again, this is pretty damn close once you balance everything out. But since this is the "tools" category, I think you have to give Guzman a slight edge.
Quentin: Quentin came into 2006 with a career mark of .316/.428/.534, including .301/.422/.520 in Triple-A last year. It is true that his home parks have favored offense. But his BB/K/AB ratio is outstanding, with as many walks as strikeouts. Taking some of the thin-air-small-park factor out of his stats still shows Quentin as a .270/.360/.450 hitter at the major league level. His numbers have remained steady since he entered pro ball, with no deterioration at all even as he faces better competition.
Guzman: Guzman came into 2006 with a career mark of .272/.323/.459, including .287/.351/.475 last year in Double-A. His BB/K/AB ratio is much less impressive than Quentin's. Guzman strikes out once a game and his walk rate is just marginal. Guzman's MLEs show him as a .250/.300/.450 player at the major league level right now. His statistics have improved over the last two years, holding his own against better pitching.
Quentin: Quentin is 24 years old and entering his prime. He projects as a .270-.290 hitter in his prime at the major league level, with a high on-base percentage and above-average power.
Guzman: Guzman is only 21 years old, and is farther away from his peak. As stated, scouts believe that Guzman has Miguel Cabrera-like ability, if he can gain sufficient command of the strike zone.
Advantage: Guzman has a higher ceiling and is younger. He is also riskier and more likely to flame out than Quentin.
Well, let's see. They are even in terms of background and intangibles. Guzman has the edge on tools, Quentin has the edge on performance. Guzman has more projectability and a higher ceiling due to his youth, but he is also riskier and less likely to actually reach his ceiling. Balance all that out and it is about as even as you can get. Which prospect comes out ahead depends on how you want to weigh each factor. If you value "higher ceiling" more than "safer pick," you should pick Guzman. Personally, I think I would rather have Quentin.