Texas Rangers

Rangers’ top rookie in 2018 might fit like his glove long-term

Things are looking up at first base for the Rangers, who saw Ronald Guzman hold his own this season as a rookie.
Things are looking up at first base for the Rangers, who saw Ronald Guzman hold his own this season as a rookie. The Associated Press

One play does not a rookie of the year make, nor one good game at the plate, but they can serve as examples of what kind of player might be developing.

Ronald Guzman, it appears, is developing into an everyday first baseman for the Texas Rangers.

Take Aug. 10 at Yankee Stadium, when he became the first rookie in MLB history to hit three homers in a game against the New York Yankees.

And Tuesday, when the 6-foot-6 Guzman jumped to rob Shohei Ohtani of at least an RBI single, then raced to first base to double off Mike Trout.

Guzman’s first MLB season hasn’t been perfect, and he knows it. He’s not going to receive votes for American League Rookie of the Year, but he is the Star-Telegram Rangers Rookie of the Year in a field that included, primarily, Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Guzman’s biggest takeaway? Experience.

“Being able to come and see how things work up here and see how organized everything is and see what really matters,” said Guzman, who started Thursday night against the Seattle Mariners. “In the minor leagues you’ve got a lot of information, but you really don’t know what works. Here you do know what works and you get to watch a lot of veterans and take a lot of positive things out of it.”

Guzman, who made his MLB debut April 13, entered the final four games at Safeco Field batting .237 with 16 home runs, 57 RBIs and a .731 OPS. His three-homer game falls in the middle of a 60-game stretch in which he has batted only .208.

Teammate and best bud Nomar Mazara said that he has encouraged Guzman to find a routine and stick to it. Hitting in the majors is hard enough with one routine, but Mazara has seen Guzman search for an answer rather than believe in what he has done for years in the minors.

Mazara’s advice is sinking in.

“Being able to stay stable, no matter if you go 0 for 4 or you go 4 for 4,” Guzman said. “It’s a long season, and being able to show up every single day and no matter what happens help your teammates win games is what matters. Whatever you can do to get wins.”

But his bat wasn’t a black hole, and the 16 homers he has this season are more than in any one stop in the minors. Mazara didn’t see that much pop when they were minor-league teammates early in their careers, but he saw a swing conducive to hitting.

“His biggest issue down there was the power, the homers,” said Mazara, who signed with the Rangers as a 16-year-old international free agent the day as Guzman, July 2, 2011.

“I know he can do more than that, but he’s still got a long way to go. He’s going to try to find something that he can be comfortable with. Once he gets there, he’s going to be a dangerous hitter. What he does is hit. We all know about his defense.”

While Guzman’s bat has lagged at times, his glove has been unwaveringly solid, if not spectacular in flashes. He has stayed consistent in the field even as frustrations have mounted at the plate, and that’s a sign of maturity.

The robbery of Ohtani might be his top defensive highlight, but there aren’t many other candidates in part because he makes defense at first look so easy. He even makes doing the splits look easy.

While Kiner-Falefa’s versatility will ensure that he at least is a big-league utility player, Guzman, 23, has the tools to be a lineup regular.

“He’s saved a lot this year defensively, and I think he’s only going to get better,” interim manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I like the changes in his stance. He isn’t expanding the zone as much. We’re pretty pleased with his progression.”

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