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Jesus Guzman – Over 11 years ago, in 2000, when Guzman was 16, he signed a minor league deal with the Seattle Mariners. The Venezuelan wouldn’t see real minor league action until 2004, when he debuted at A+ ball. He acquitted himself quite well, going .310/.393/.443.

The following year he played entirely at AA ball. He was 21, but didn’t flash a ton of promise (.258/.330/.393). He also hit only nine homers and stole only six bases. What’s worse, he was caught stealing 11 times.

Not surprisingly, the Mariners made Guzman repeat AA in 2006. Now 22, he had to get his mojo going. Unfortunately, 2006 looked a lot like 2005: .257/.335/.382 with nine homers and seven steals (albeit he was only caught three times).
At 23, Guzman was going backward, as the Mariners kept him at A+ ball for the duration of 2007. He played well, but, at that age and repeating such a low level, the success was almost meaningless. On October 29, 2007, he was granted free agency.

He wouldn’t be a fish out of water for long, as Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics scooped him up on November 16. He spent the majority of his time at AA for the Athletics and played quite well: .364/.419/.560 with 14 homers. After 80 games at AA, the A’s promoted him to AAA, where things stalled out once again: .237/.281/.373.

Guzman again found himself a free agent on November 3, 2008. However, he wouldn’t wait long, as he signed a contract with the team across the bay just 15 days later. Guzman destroyed the ball in Spring Training for the Giants and showed much prowess as a 25-year-old in the Pacific Coast League (.321/.379/.507). He earned a quick cup of coffee with the Giants but didn’t do anything outstanding in just 20 plate appearances.

Unfortunately for Guzman, the Giants brought in a slew of veterans to clog the corners and he spent the entirety of 2010 in AAA (where he looked pretty good: .321/.376/.510).

Before 2011, with Brandon Belt on the way and Aubrey Huff inked to a two-year deal, Guzman was again granted free agency. But the Padres waited just 14 days to sign Guzman. If you are scoring at home, during his migration down the coast, Guzman never spent more than 18 days as a free agent after signing with the Mariners as a 16-year-old.

With Adrian Gonzalez gone and a couple of corner prospects in Kyle Blanks and Anthony Rizzo that were likely a bit away from the majors, the Padres started Guzman off in AAA in the Pacific Coast League. While it is a notorious hitter’s haven, you can’t doubt the success Guzman had: .332/.423/.529 with eight homers in 63 games.

Sure, he was repeating the league and he is now 27 years old, but dude could rake and deserved a shot. Well, on June 17, at Minnesota of all places, Guzman got the start. He went 2-4, but wouldn’t get full time duties for some time. However, by the end of June, in 30 plate appearances, Guzman had a .310/.333/.552 line.

Still splitting time throughout July, Guzman got better: going .345/.400/.636 in 60 plate appearances. And he hasn’t slowed down in August, getting a hit in 10 of 11 games he has appeared in.

I love the Jesus Guzman story. I love that I own him in a bunch of deep leagues and you should too. While he likely won’t maintain his .371 BABIP, his 20.9% line drive rate and 12.5% HR/FB rate aren’t flukes. He swings and misses a good chunk and doesn’t walk a lot, but his power is real and sustainable. I see no reason why he can’t finish with an average around .325, a sweet .355 OBP, and a nice .510 slugging percentage. At least five more homers seem like money in the bank. Buy the Guzman stats and buy the story, grab him now.

Dexter Fowler – Fowler, born four years and nine days after me, was a 14th round selection in the 2004 draft. He’d appear in 62 games in rookie ball in 2005 and look decent enough (.273/.357/.409) to earn a promotion the following season to A ball.

And Fowler shined (.296/.373/.462) with 43 steals albeit in 66 attempts (not the best success rate). Still, going into the following year, 2007, Fowler was rated the #48 best prospect.  Unfortunately, Fowler suffered injuries to his right hand and appeared in just 65 games at A+ ball. He looked good, but took a step back to #74 in the prospect rankings.

However, that didn’t stop the Rockies from promoting him the following season. In 2008, in his first taste of AA, Fowler went .335/.431/.515 and earned his first espresso in the majors. He made his debut the same day he earned his call up and pinch ran in the bottom of the 10th inning against the Giants. Unfortunately, he was picked off first base.

Still, going into 2009, he was ranked the #15 best prospect and spent the majority of the season in the majors going .266/.363/.406 with 27 steals in 37 attempts. He posted a reasonable walk rate (12.9%) but his .351 BABIP was a tad dangerous (even though it was paired with a 21% line drive rate).

Clearly, it seemed like the groundwork was laid for a 2010 season full of stolen bases. Unfortunately, his walk rate dipped, his ground balls increased, his BABIP fell to .328 and his OBP dropped to .347. This resulted in just 13 steals in 21 attempts – a horrible ratio for a no-power guy.

Going into 2011, Fowler was an afterthought in a crowded and star-studded Rockies lineup. However, he has generated a .265/.366/.401 line (eerily similar to 2009). But if you check underneath the hood, while his line drive rate has increased slightly over the past two years, he is striking out more and his BABIP is .377. What’s worse, Fowler is just 8/16 in stolen base attempts.

Still, there is room for optimism. Over the last 30 days, Fowler has gone 30/92 with six steals and a .426 OBP. Sure, his BABIP over the last 28 days is .448, but you have to have skills to do that. Fowler is someone to keep an eye on down the stretch. If he can keep hitting line drives and figures out a way to steal successfully, Fowler could be a decent boon to your steals. In addition, I’d take this as an audition for your 2012 fantasy squad. I believe in Fowler long-term.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia – I’m about to tell you something I bet you didn’t know. Salty has the longest last name in the illustrious history of Major League Baseball. The inability to spell/pronounce his surname didn’t hinder his draft potential, as he was a first round selection by the Atlanta Braves in 2003, right out of high school.

He did some nice things, especially for a catcher, in his first two minor league seasons in rookie and A ball. However, he truly burst onto the scene in 2005, going .314/.394/.519 in A+ ball. Before 2006, he was the #18 ranked prospect. While he slipped a little in 2006 (hitting just .230/.353/.380) at AA, he was just 21 and, my oh my, look at that on base percentage – that’s tops.

Before 2007, he was the #36 ranked prospect. He said the hell with that ranking, I deserve a top slot. He murdered AA: .309/.404/.617 in 22 games. He earned his way onto a contending Braves team, where he would exhibit some chops: .284/.333/.411 in 47 games. He was 22 and a catcher. No wonder the Rangers coveted him (not to mention Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison). On July 31, he’d be traded along with the aforementioned trio to the Texas Rangers for Mark Texeira and Ron Mahay.

As an aside, that trade almost looks as bad as the Glenn Davis for Steve Finley-Curt Schilling-Pete Harnisch swap the Orioles did. It’s amazing that the Braves had enough minor league talent to not even skip a beat (for the most part) after that.

Back to Salty – he wouldn’t perform quite as well with the Rangers (.251/.290/.431) but his power increased and he finished with an impressive .266/.310/.422. We had our next Mike Piazza. Well, there’s a reason Mike Piazza has few equals. Salty would struggle with injuries and inconsistency in 2008, playing just 61 games in the majors. He finished with a .253/.352/.364 line, which isn’t horrible, but was aided by a .385 BABIP. The lack of power and skyrocketing K-rate (it was 32.3%) were definitely disconcerting.

Unfortunately, Salty continued his downward spiral in 2009. His walk rate plummeted, his Ks maintained and his BABIP normalized, resulting in a .223/.290/.371 line in 84 games. While his isolated power moved back toward his respectable 2007 number, he hit fewer line drives and fly balls and more ground balls – not a recipe for success when you run like a catcher and play in a hitter’s park.

Then, just two games into the 2010 season, Salty was put on the DL. When he was ready to come off, he found himself completely lost and in AAA. He struggled with the bat and with his throws back to the pitcher. The Red Sox swooped in with some cash and a few prospects and scooped Salty off the Rangers’ hands.  Salty did nothing for the Red Sox in 2010 and it appeared Salty’s star had fizzled completely, especially after a rough start to 2011.

However, he has turned things around in Boston. After 266 plate appearances, he has a 28.8% K-rate (which is a huge improvement) and has traded ground balls for fly balls – a smart thing to do in Fenway Park. While his walk rate hasn’t gotten to the double digit promise that seemed all but certain a few years ago, his .317 OBP is nothing to sneeze at from a 26-year-old catcher with a .209 ISO and .462 slugging percentage.

There is absolutely nothing crazy about Salty’s season. It will likely be the building block to a long and successful career. However, there is one underlying problem with Salty’s career today: his splits. He owns a career .274/.343/.447 line against righties but a .209/.268/.334 line against lefties. He hasn’t been much better this year.

Still, the Red Sox are smart enough to ensure he sees most of his at bats against righties. As long as Salty continues to take advantage of his home ball park and takes a few small steps in his pitch recognition, he could be a prime backstop for the next several years. If we’re looking at the rest of the season, I could see him being a top 5-7 option down the stretch. Certainly, McCann, Mauer, Napoli, Martinez (although look at his splits), and Carlos Santana will be in the mix as well.

27 Responses

  1. Thanks for reading – any interest in the players above? Or perhaps some guys who can help you down the stretch in your leagues!

    hit me with your best comments…to quote…er Pat Benatar

  2. KJ says:
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    Albert, another great article.

    Guzman has been a good story and a buy cheap replacement just in time for a late season/playoff push. The only unfortunate thing is that The Guz may be dealing with a minor injury.

    But, I expect him back soon (pinch hit last night) and is definitely serviceable.

    Next up: Constanza, Blanks and Carp?

  3. Yosef says:
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    So if Salty’s sitting there, you grab Mauer?

    Also: Delmon Young or Dexter Fowler, ROTW.

    Jesus Guzman or Freddie Freeman

  4. JT says:
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    I also believe in Fowler long term. Love his plate discipline and his OBP should keep giving him opportunities to showcase his speed. I can see a .290 10/30 from him as soon as 2012.

  5. Alex says:
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    Albert,

    How do you compare Salty to another high power/high k-rate guy like J.P. Arencibia? Both young, both have last names which are long and end in ‘ia’, but what else??

    Thanks. Dig the column.

  6. @KJ:

    Thanks for the comment, KJ!

    Yeah it’s tough timing for Guzman – and I’ve been on his bandwagon for awhile. While he has been dinged up, he did pinch hit as you mention and has only missed a couple of games.

    I’m taking Carp – he plays full time and has been hotter than Uggla really. top 20 player over the last 30 days.

    I actually almost wrote about Carp for this piece, but did cover him: http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/h2h-corner-katy-perry-hot-%E2%80%98n%E2%80%99-cold-fantasy-baseball-all-stars-24/ and http://h2hcorner.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/h2h-corner-katy-perry-hot-%E2%80%98n%E2%80%99-cold-fantasy-baseball-all-stars-23/

  7. Elite Fantasy Players says:
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    Do you really Jesus is a 20/20 player given a full season of playing time?

  8. @Yosef:

    If i needed power, i’d take Salty over mauer, absolutely. Not sure if Maure can be that .330 hitter he has to to be anywhere near a top 5 catcher. I’d take Salty now in h2h, but be a bit more conservative in roto leagues.

    I’m taking dexter fowler – obviously this is a bit based on needs – Delmon for RBIs, Fowler for most everything else. Delmon cant walk and cant lay off pitches – until he does that, hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera wont turn him into Rich Aurillia.

    Given the aforementioned health Qs, it looks like Freeman is the right choice. If both were healthy, I’d take Guzman.

  9. @JT:

    Thanks JT – I did jump on the Fowler train a few years ago (which was a bad call) but just look at those OBPs (especially in the minors). He is definitely someone I am going to target in 2012. I wouldnt be shocked with a 60 steal campaign

  10. @Alex:

    Thanks for the post!

    I see JP as good for a .225/.270/.440 with 6-7 more HRs;
    Salty: good for .241/.315/.420 with 3-5 more HRs

    So, i’d probably go JP, with those crappy ratios, might as well take the better power option

  11. Eric says:
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    Do you think Guzman is 20/20 given a full season of playing time?

  12. @Eric:

    There is an argument to be made that is within the realm of possibility (especially on a Padres club that runs a lot because they cant score at all).

    Still, I dont think so. The stolen bases will be the problem – during his minor league career he is 33/53 in SB attempts – that aint gonna play in MLB. While he is a perfect 7/7 in the majors, I doubt that continues. I’m also not positive he’ll get on base quite enough to get the SB chances he needs to get to 20. But he could easily do something similar to Chase Headley – so the 15-17 range seems likely.

    With Rizzo/Blanks, the key will be playing time for Guzman going forward.

  13. Albert, we were born two months apart. Does this mean we should have babies together?

  14. @ChrisV82:

    Well, I can’t imagine that’s possible unless Junior was the first reality TV movie.

    I’m also engaged and I imagine she’d frown on that – I mean a puppy is enough work.

    Thanks for the sentiment though…or not actually

  15. Nick says:
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    I don’t see Salty becoming a viable top 5-7 catcher until he proves he can catch every day. Right now he’s on a schedule that has him start two days, take one off, start one day, take one off, and repeat. With his injury history, he’s far from proving he can stay healthy over the course of a whole season, especially when he gets that many days off at a time. That said, he was a great holdover while I had McCann on the DL.

  16. Nick says:
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    And the great thing about Guzman is that ESPN accidentally gave him SS eligibility, making him a fantastic corner infield option.

  17. @Nick:

    Well, Salty has the 22nd most plate appearances so far this year. 2 of those above him are full time DHs. You’re right he does need more playing time and I think he’ll eventually get it.

    That said, over the last 30 days, he is the third best catcher so clearly he is capable of being tops at the position.

    The key will be the Sox trusting him and using him in the right spots.

    Who do you want over him?
    V-mart? McCann? Napoli? Avila? Santana? JPA? Montero?

    It’s close at the end there — i think Salty can sneak in there ROTW.

  18. @Nick:

    Yeah I should have made that point — I dont play in ESPN leagues, but man that’s huge. The SS position is horrible – an injured Guzman is top 5!

  19. Nick says:
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    @Albert:

    True, Salty has a ton of value in 5×5 category leagues. My opinion is skewed since my main league counts AVG/OBP/SLG, which makes McCann the single best catching option out there for me. In terms of typical roto categories though, Salty certainly can hang with the big names.

  20. Beau says:
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    Is it too early to drop Reynolds for someone like Matsui or Seth Smith if my biggest need is average? Problem is I would put Asdrubal in 3B spot and have no one for SS until (?) Reyes returns…

  21. @Nick:

    Well yes – McCann is a man among the unborn at the catching position. No one can touch him. Its not even close, especially in your league with OBP. VMart is close, but his power is gone and he’s generating no power as a righty swinger.

    In my opinion, there’s McCann and then there is everyone else. The 2 – 7 you can throw a dart at the wall.

  22. @Beau:

    Absolutely not – although it is probably too late to affect your average in any meaningful way – if this is in a roto league.

    If this is head to head, then i dont worry too much about average.

    Is a Brett Lawrie available? No reason to really leave an empty roster spot.

    Wilson Betemit? Jamie Carrol? Callaspo?

  23. I’m not saying I’d rather have any of those 3bs than reynolds in h2h, but if you are worried about average, they’d be the way to go.

    In h2h, I’d rank: Lawrie, betemit, Reynolds, Callaspo, Carroll

  24. papafrog says:
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    @Albert: Good stuff but don’t you think Anthony Rizzo will be back up in September thus cutting into Guzman’s playing time? I would sell him high if your league’s trade deadline hasn’t past but that’s just me. Thoughts?

  25. @papafrog:

    That’s a good thought – but i cant imagine the Padres sitting Guzman if he continues this pace, which I believe he will.

    I also dont see a huge incentive to get Rizzo back to the majors, especially after he hit .143/.282/.265 in his first go round.

    Rizzo is succeeding at AAA; but he has a .398 BABIP there. Even if the Pads try to get Rizzo more playing time in the majors, I think he’ll fail pretty quickly and the Padres will be forced to give Guzman back the reins.

    I think worst case scenario is Guzman platoons with Rizzo (why bat him against lefties) for a short time until Rizzo proves he isnt ready yet.

  26. lopes says:
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    Freese or Guzman?

  27. @lopes:
    If position doesnt matter, it becomes a tough one.

    I like Guzman for 3-4 more homers and 3-4 more steals with decent ratios.

    Freese is more like 2-3 homers and no steals; however he should outpace Guzman slightly in runs/RBIs.

    The Rizzo specter clouds this one a tad, but I’d roll the dice with Guzman – Freese just isnt exciting, and, at worst, Guzman offers similar stability as Freese

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