After being recalled to the active roster on Friday, Ronald Guzman will get another chance to lock up first base for the Texas Rangers.
Early in the season, Ronald Guzman found himself optioned to the Texas Rangers’ Alternate Training Site and having again missed an opportunity to take over the first base spot for the club. Fast forward to Friday, August 28 and Guzman will get another shot, after being recalled by the club in response to Danny Santana being placed on the 10-day Injured List.
Guzman’s defense at the big league level has never been in doubt. Perhaps with the Texas Rangers’ struggle defensively Guzman’s value with the glove is heightened further. So far this season, Texas has deployed seven different players at first base, Guzman included, and that group has been below average defensively. Considering none of the regular first base options have produced much at the plate, save Todd Frazier who is limited to third base because of other injuries on the team, Guzman’s call-up makes sense. Texas, regardless of offensive production, will see some jump in value from the position purely off of the defensive ability Guzman possesses.
The question though for Guzman is whether he can produce at the rate required to be an everyday Major League first baseman. The ideology behind the position has shifted heavily recently in favor of the big bat in the lineup even at the sacrifice of defensive ability. While Guzman has the power, thanks in large part to his imposing frame, he has yet to translate it into game situations on a regular basis. Couple that with a career .229 average and .721 OPS and the production just has not been there to justify keeping him in the lineup despite the defense.
Further, when Guzman is out of the lineup, he’s hard to justify keeping on the active roster. He’s limited defensively to first base and it’s hard for a team to keep a first base-only substitute on their bench, particularly one that doesn’t hit all that well. That has led to him seeing his fair share of options since he debuted in 2018.
Moving forward though, Guzman has yet again, another opportunity to take a starting role at first base. On the active roster, the only other direct competitors for playing time are Derek Dietrich and Todd Frazier. Of course, Frazier, as mentioned above, is seeing most of his time at third right now with Isiah Kiner-Falefa shifted over to shortstop with Elvis Andrus on the IL. Dietrich on the other hand, has the ability to play a couple of infield spots and has acted as a utility-man for Texas since signing with the club this season.
Dietrich, also a lefty bat, would probably be the most direct competitor for Guzman at first but it isn’t like he’s lit the world ablaze at the plate. He starter off his time with the Rangers brilliantly but has dropped off considerably and is now hitting just .222 with a .734 OPS. Defensively, he doesn’t have the ability Guzman does so if ‘The Condor’ can produce similarly at the plate, he should be able to beat Dietrich for starter playing time.
With eyes towards the future, Texas is in need of a long-term first baseman. They have a few bat-first guys at the system but they’ll have to prove they can produce well enough to outweigh their subpar defense. There’s always the chance that some of their higher up prospects could chance positions as well. The trio of Sam Huff, Josh Jung and Sherten Apostel come to mind but they’ll have to prove they’re big league ready overall to even get a look in Arlington next season.
That opens the door for Guzman to claim that spot as his now. He has a head start on any real competitors. Once everyone is fully healthy, Texas will have to do some lineup shuffling to keep certain guys playing, but if Guzman hits, he’ll play. It’s as simple as that.