The last of the ballyhooed international signing class of 2011 and draft class of 2012 reached the majors last season, and, as Ronald Guzman said at the time, all that matters is that he was finally here.
And he stayed essentially the whole season as he was recalled April 13 after Elvis Andrus broke his right arm and never returned to Triple A despite some prolonged second-half slumping.
It’s that inconsistency that has the Rangers not 100 percent committing to Guzman as their first baseman entering spring training. Their actions say they are 95 percent committed, having spent the offseason shopping for everything but a first baseman.
A good camp will cement an everyday spot for the slick-fielding, better-hitter-than-he-showed Guzman in 2019. And he has help.
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Guzman, perhaps as much as any player, will benefit from the Rangers’ deep dive into analytics and the fresh eyes of new hitting coach Luis Ortiz and assistant hitting coach Callix Crabbe.
“From a technical standpoint, he’s already cleaned up some of his mechanical flaws,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s already dug into them with Luis and Crabbe. I really think that’s going to help him be more consistent.”
Guzman isn’t a small man, at 6-foot-6, and his swing isn’t small either. Big-league pitchers can find holes in any swing, but the bigger the swing, the more places to beat a hitter.
Guzman didn’t do badly for a rookie. He hit 16 homers, the most he has hit at any level in a season. Three of those came one game at Yankee Stadium, making him the youngest player to ever collect a three-homer game in the Bronx.
He also developed a knack for delivering in the clutch with a .283 average with runners in scoring position.
The Rangers gave Guzman days off against left-handers, who held him to a .208 average. That’s how the right-handed-hitting Patrick Wisdom or Matt Davidson could get at-bats at first base, but the Rangers also value Guzman’s defense.
Infielders can pretty much throw the ball anywhere, and “the Condor” will reach up or out or down and get it. He can also do the splits, something that always makes fans gasp.
But Guzman was inconsistent offensively, which led to a .235 average. He didn’t trust his approach during slumps, which only prolonged them. As is often the case with young players, he couldn’t quickly stop those tailspins.
Now that the swing flaws have been ironed out, it’s time to start feeding him new information.
“We can start to evaluate his consistency in the zone and out of the zone, and I think that’s where he’s going to see the benefits from the information,” Woodward said. “It’s just to put proof on what he’s doing is going to lead to results.
“He’s such a physical, big athletic guy, once he becomes consistent, the results are going to speak for themselves.”