Texas Rangers Position Preview: Is Ronald Guzman a lock at first base?
By Travis Koch
The Texas Rangers know who will start at first base on opening day. The question is will that player control 1B for the entire season?
First baseman Ronald Guzman hasn’t gotten a ton of buzz this offseason. That tells us two things: (1) Little controversy surrounds his assumed playing time and (2) he hasn’t earned any considerable hype. The Texas Rangers enter spring training with Guzman atop the 1B depth chart. Will he remain there all season or might someone else intervene?
With the Rangers going through a rebuild, the club plans to let young talent play through thick or thin in 2019. Rookies, sophomores… basically any member of the team age 25 and under will be evaluated at the big league level from April to September. Thus, Texas is a good place to be for a well-regarded 24-year-old player like Guzman.
He’ll still have to perform. It’s not like the Rangers will toss Guzman out there everyday if he’s hitting .200 and striking out twice a game (hold the Gallo comments, he’s a special case). Teammates and coaches set expectations; if any player is performing well below expectations then that player doesn’t deserve to be in the lineup.
The Texas Rangers expect Guzman to play a stellar first base. They also expect him to slug at a high rate and to produce runs from the bottom third of the batting order. If he can do those things then there’s no reason to suspect a forfeiture of the first base job.
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Guzman doesn’t have much competition. There’s no one gunning for his spot in the minor leagues and there is not another defined “first baseman” on the big league roster. Of course, Joey Gallo presents the only caveat. Gallo played 55 games at first in 2017 and 35 in 2018. He has proven to be a very capable first baseman whenever he is asked to play there.
First base is not Guzman vs. Gallo competition, however. Actually, it’s a Guzman vs. Calhoun competition, and Calhoun is currently competing with Hunter Pence, Carlos Tocci, Ben Revere and Delino DeShields for an outfield spot.
Somehow every positional debate keeps coming back to the Rangers’ outfield cluster. Allow me to break it down…
If Willie Calhoun dominates this spring, he’s likely to earn an opening day roster spot. If he’s on the roster then Texas is going to afford him consistent playing time. Because he can only play left field or DH, Gallo would have to move from left field to either center field or first base.
Gallo is going to play somewhere just about everyday. Calhoun, and perhaps Pence, are the two players capable of pushing him out of left field and to another position. Seeing how Gallo’s two other positions are center field and first base (he doesn’t want to play third base and right field is Mazara’s), DeShields and Guzman would be the ones at risk.
Without a doubt, Guzman has the advantage over DeShields. (I can’t believe I’m comparing a first baseman to a center fielder.) Guzman is younger, he has the higher ceiling and the Rangers have more contractual control over him. He also had a better 2018.
In summary, the initial threat to The Condor’s playing time is Calhoun. If Calhoun makes the team, Guzman would then have DeShields over his shoulder.
Frankly, none of those scenarios matter if Ronald Guzman is producing at the plate and on the diamond. In other words, first base is his position to lose.
I’m just trying to lay it all out for the fans. Barring injury, Guzman will be the starting first baseman on opening day. From there, I wouldn’t quite say he has the position on lock; however, he’ll be sitting comfortably.
We all anticipate a quality season from Guzman. 2019 is a very important year for him, considering both the present and the future. Hopefully he meets, or exceeds expectations.