It was November in 2014 when news broke that Texas Rangers prospect Ronald Guzman was a driver in a fatal car crash in the Dominican Republic. The baseball world was already reeling from the news less than a month earlier that St. Louis Cardinals star in the making, Oscar Taveras, was killed in a car crash in that same country. Ronald Guzman survived the crash but the person driving the motorcycle his car collided with did not.
At this point, much of the baseball community was hoping not to get worse news along the lines of this incident being a result of driving under the influence that would see Guzman behind bars. News finally came out that Guzman had not been drinking and ultimately would not face charges as the motorcyclist collided with Guzman’s SUV after the motorcycle reportedly failed to stop at an intersection.
At the time, Guzman was coming off his third pro season and easily the worst of his career to that point. After hitting .321 and .272 the two previous years, Guzman hit only .218 in 2014. Heading into 2015 there was much uncertainty about his future having had such a poor season and being involved in such an unfortunate incident. That spring it was obvious Guzman was not as loose as he had been in previous springs, but at the same time his bat was cracking with a different sound than the year before and went on to have a breakout season. He hit .283 over two levels and hit double-digit home runs for the first time. That fall, he went to the Arizona Fall League as just a 20-year old. He only played in seven games, but it was enough to earn an invite to Spring Training the next year, and a promotion to both AA and AAA in 2016.
By this time, Guzman had gone from one of the Rangers top prospects to a forgotten one, to suddenly a top prospect again, and he will finally make his debut Friday night after Elvis Andrus was placed on the DL today.
Guzman is a long 6’5” and 225 pounds with a very good glove to go with the long reach. He can put up some impressive power at times but will never be a massive home run hitter. The most he has hit in a single season is 16, and that pretty much fits what he should hit, 15-20 in time. The most impressive part of his game from such a long first baseman is his hit tool. He has hit .275 over his minor league career but could easily flirt with being a .300 hitter in the big leagues. He strikes out but not at an incredible rate although he could stand to draw a few more walks.
In the end, I expect Guzman to fit in as a very good first baseman in the long term for the Rangers. He does not have the foot speed to play in the outfield, but the roster is loaded with other players that have plenty of position flexibility. Once Andrus is back from the fracture in his elbow that will have him out 6-8 weeks, I expect it to be Isaiah Kiner-Falefa who is out of a spot, not Guzman. Guzman should be able to take over the first base job moving forward, keeping Gallo in the crowded outfield with Nomar Mazara, Shin-Soo Choo, Ryan Rua, Delino DeShields Jr., and eventually Willie Calhoun.
(Saturday update: Guzman went 1-for-3 in his big league debut, adding a walk to his night.)