Ronald Guzmán has spent the first eight seasons of his professional baseball career not quite living up to expectations. Sure, there were a few good seasons in the mix, but for the most part, he never took that leap that his raw ability and natural baseball intelligence suggested he should. He rode his natural ability hard and in 2018 the first baseman found himself making the major leagues with the Texas Rangers. His time with the Rangers has been underwhelming so far, but there is a great chance that the left-handed slugger has turned a corner.
To say that Guzmán was dominant during the 2020-2021 Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana campaign would be an understatement. From about a week into the season, it was clear that he had flipped a switch and was a much better version of the player he had been before. Throughout the regular season, he used his increasingly aggressive approach, both with a bat and glove in his hands, to get better and better. He took home a Gold Glove award for first base, the regular season Most Valuable Player award, and if not for his Gigantes del Cibao losing game seven of the LIDOM Finals he likely would have taken home the Finals MVP as well.
The change in question is exactly as put, increased aggression. There’s no real metric to measure this change but it has been evident to all who have spent the winter watching the 6’5 tall Guzmán. In the field he has taken more chances at first base, gone after balls that he usually did not in the past. He is an amazing athlete and his new range can be credited to him finally leaning into his natural athleticism. Anyone who has seen Guzmán stretch and scoop a throw out of the dirt can testify to his athletic prowess at the other hot corner.
The story at the plate has been much the same for the La Vega native. His keen eye remains, but he’s become more aggressive at going after his pitch. This is a tough skill for any hitter to master but it appears that Guzmán has finally figured out how and when to be aggressive at the dish. Near the end of the LIDOM playoffs, Guzmán became not just the toughest out on the field but the toughest out in all of baseball with his newfound aggression and old patience all rolled into one. There’s no reason that Guzmán should not be able to take what he has put together this winter and bring it to the Rangers come the summer.
A slash line of .360/.450/.523 in 131 at-bats speaks to the damage that Guzmán wrought during the LIDOM regular season. He cranked five home runs over the fence (don’t let the low number fool you, LIDOM is a low home run league) and walked 17 times to only 23 strikeouts. Add it all up and he produced an OPS+ of 158. The playoffs were no different for the Gigantes’ star. In the first round, he slashed .300/.462/.450 for a 148 OPS+. However, in the finals when his team needed him the most he almost single-handedly carried the Gigantes to the championship. Over the seven games, he slashed .467/.500/.833 in 30 at-bats. He had a 216 OPS+, two home runs, and five doubles. His final numbers on the entire LIDOM season: .373/.460/.571 with seven home runs, nine doubles, 25 walks, and a 167 OPS+ in 189 at-bats.
That wasn’t enough for Guzmán as he accepted a spot on the LIDOM champion Águilas Cibaeñas roster for the 2021 Serie del Caribe. In six games and 23 at-bats he has slashed .261/.346/.435 with one home run and three walks to four strikeouts. Not quite as dominant as his run in LIDOM, but playing in a major league (SDC is a major league and should be recognized as such) he still put up good numbers. Guzmán has turned a corner and he should carry over his great winter league play into the Major League Baseball regular season. Rangers fans will be happy to hear that, but really, if Guzmán keeps up his level of play it’s baseball fans the world over who will benefit the most from the new superstar they get to enjoy.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Listin Diario