First baseman Ronald Guzman has been optioned to Triple-A Nashville, the Rangers announced Tuesday. He’ll be replaced on the active roster by right-hander Pedro Payano, who’ll start tonight’s game for Texas. Logan Forsythe is getting the nod at first base for Texas tonight.
It’s undoubtedly a dejecting outcome not only for Guzman himself but also for the organization, as the team had hoped that Guzman would blossom into an everyday player after getting an extended MLB audition as a 23-year-old in 2018. Last season, Guzman’s bat was below average, but he held his own with a .235/.306/.416 batting line and 16 round-trippers in 428 plate appearances.
This year, however, Guzman’s production has gone backward, as he’s batted just .193/.282/.396 in 227 plate appearances. That said, there’s also some reason to be optimistic about a rebound. Guzman isn’t striking out at a higher clip than he did in ’18 — though his 28 percent clip is still a bit high — and his walk rate has actually improved from 7.7 percent to 11.0 percent.
Statcast indicates that his hard-hit rate has improved a bit, and Guzman has already nearly matched his 2018 total of “barreled” balls in just over half as many plate appearances as he received last year. He’s lugging around an ugly .285 weighted on-base average, but based on the quality of the contact he’s made, Statcast feels he’s been decidedly unlucky (.324 xwOBA). That, to be clear, doesn’t indicate that Guzman should be a force at the plate, but perhaps his struggles aren’t likely to continue at this great a rate.
The Rangers and Guzman will hope that a reset in a lower-pressure setting will restore his confidence and give him a needed mental break. He’s currently mired in an awful 2-for-30 slide in the month of July and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since June 25. Guzman still has a long way to go before he comes close to living up to the potential that prompted Baseball Prospectus to rank him as the game’s No 94 prospect prior to the 2018 season, but he’s yet to celebrate his 25th birthday, so there’s still plenty of time for him to turn things around.
Taking a step back, the Guzman dilemma isn’t an entirely unfamiliar problem for the Rangers. They’ve seen several young hitters — e.g. Rougned Odor, Nomar Mazara, Willie Calhoun — all struggle to varying extents, either immediately upon debuting or sputtering out after some early promise. It’s a particularly glaring issue, as one can’t help but wonder where the Rangers would be in the standings if that group of players had played up to their abilities thus far. Instead, the quartet of Guzman, Odor, Mazara and Calhoun have performed at sub-replacement level in 2019. And the Rangers, who’ve now dropped eight games in a row, look more like potential sellers than the likely buyers they appeared to be coming out of the All-Star break.