The Texas Rangers love Ronald Guzman’s defense and personality, but his bat has been weak. Greg Bird provided the thump. Here’s the case for each.
The Texas Rangers haven’t had a steady first baseman since Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli at the beginning of the 2010’s. Fans have seen the likes of Lance Berkman, Napoli (again), Joey Gallo, Ronald Guzman and Danny Santana man the first base bag over the years, and it’s time we see Guzman step up.
The Rangers have big time power bats in the farm, waiting for their opportunity in the big leagues. Curtis Terry, Sherten Apostel and others have the makings of being quality first baseman in the future, but for the Texas Rangers in now. It’s between Guzman and former Yankees top prospect Greg Bird. Bird has a big bat, but the injury bug has bitten him a few to many times. Guzman’s bat hasn’t come around quite yet, but after an offseason with Nelson Cruz, maybe things will change. Here’s a breakdown of both Guzman and Bird, and a case that can be made for each to man the job.
Guzman has cemented himself as a fan favorite in Arlington with his outgoing personality, dancing with mascots and infectious smile. The reality of baseball, though, is that none of these things will keep you on the field. Guzman is an elite defensive first baseman, sporting a .993 career average fielding percentage. In 198 career games, Guzman has committed only 11 errors and helped turn 163 double plays, a Ranger’s specialty. Guzman’s elite defense is great, but the gap-to-gap power he possessed in the minors has not fully translated into the Major Leagues. After spending a bulk of the offseason with former Texas Ranger and elite power hitter Nelson Cruz, the hope is he can get back to that swing. Cruz said that Guzman is going to do big things, and has needed to get back to the swing that got him signed. Guzman came back and said that he feels much more confident coming into spring. As of now, first base is Guzman’s spot to lose, and if the bat starts out slow, Greg Bird is waiting in the wings.
Greg Bird was once a coveted prospect in the Yankees organization, but the injury bug bit him early in his career. The Rangers have always liked Bird, he has a very smooth swing and has the kind of power that a prototypical first baseman has. Guzman does not have that kind of power. Although Bird’s defense is not what Guzman’s is, he can handle first base well enough to keep him on the roster. Bird’s bugaboo, as mentioned previously, is the injuries. He has never played more than 82 games in the majors, and has never really impressed when he’s been on the field. His best season was in 2015, his rookie year, where he hit .261 with 11 long balls. His career high in RBI came in 2018 with 38, and matched his career high in homeruns with 11 that same year. If Greg Bird comes into camp and performs well, Guzman will have some stiff competition and Bird could walk away with a major league job.
In baseball today, offense outweighs the defensive side of the game. For old fashioned baseball fans, that is an odd transition, but the game has to evolve. For Bird, he possess the offensive prowess that young fans like to watch: big home runs. Guzman’s defense is the best the Rangers have had in many years, and is a huge boost for their defense which has had its ups and downs over the years. I believe Guzman will feel the pressure this spring and win the job, but Greg Bird is going to make this a very interesting, fun spring training battle for a big league spot.