After having signed the relatively unknown (at the time anyway) Yasiel Puig, it came as little surprise that the Dodgers dipped their toes into the same market again this offseason, signing middle infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four year, $28 million dollar contract. It was widely expected at the time of signing that Guerrero would be in line to be the everyday second baseman in Dodger Blue at the start of the season, given that the team had let the previous second baseman (Mark Ellis) leave via free agency.
However, Guerrero had not played consistently since the 2011 Cuban season, and was only able to play in 12 games in the Dominican Winter League this offseason. Coming into spring training, Guerrero was anticipated to compete for the starting second base job, but might end up in the minors if the team felt he needed more at bats and consistent playing time. With the emergence during the spring of Dee Gordon, the Dodgers had a relatively easy decision to send Guerrero to AAA to get consistent playing time.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago: Guerrero is destroying AAA pitching to the tune of a .376/.417/.735 slash line, 10 home runs and 29 runs batted in at the offense-friendly environs of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Meanwhile, Dee Gordon had started to return to the pumpkin form that had been at least partially expected, hitting just .196 with a .268 on-base percentage in the two weeks prior to May 20th. And then we started seeing the strangeness on Twitter...
As you would expect, the Twitter jokes came rolling in, and practically wrote themselves:
This is how the zombie apocalypse starts. Miguel Olivo is patient zero.— Chris Cwik (@Chris_Cwik) May 20, 2014
And that's what on base percentage is #WhatGuerreroSaidToOlivo— Craig Goldstein (@cdgoldstein) May 20, 2014
Alex Guerrero was caught off guard in the altercation because every bone in his body told him to expect Miguel Olivo to take a swing— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) May 20, 2014
Meanwhile, we have this well-thought of prospect, who had the potential at least to be called up given the situation in Los Angeles, who is now out a month-plus worth of the at-bats the team wanted him to get.
Coming into the season, the reports on Guerrero were a lot more vague than you would normally see with a top prospect, but coming from Cuba and not playing for over a year led to a lot of hedging, myself included:
The reports on Guerrero that are available point to a player who could be an above-average hitter at an up-the-middle position. He has shown above-average power in Cuba, but it is unclear if that will translate into a 20 home run bat, or a 10 home run bat in the major leagues. He has played some shortstop in the past, but is not considered strong enough defensively to play the position on a consistent basis, and will move to second base instead. There are questions surrounding how potent his bat will be as he is exposed to major league pitching, which leaves a wide range of outcomes despite him being expected to be in the lineup on Opening Day.
Fast forward to now, and we have a potential second baseman that can shown solid power to the pull side, and that power has not been just a product of his home park (8 of his 10 home runs have come in some of the more pitcher-friendly parks of the PCL). The HR/FB% rate is extremely high (31% so far in the small sample), which should regress over time. That said, he should still be capable of providing fantasy owners with 15+ home runs on a consistent basis.
The power will not, unfortunately, be paired with speed particularly, as he was not considered much of a threat on the basepaths coming into the season, and with one stolen base in one attempt this year, he hasn't exactly changed the script on that part of his game.
There were questions about his approach coming into the season, and Baseball America noted specifically that he "had a pull-oriented approach that he will have to adjust to hit quality pitching." The data over at MLBFarm has shown him to be a fairly strong pull hitter so far, with nearly half of his batted ball going to either left field or third base. Even with that, so far it has not affected him particularly in terms of batting average. While I (and the .378 BABIP that he is sporting so far) believe that he won't continue to hit .376, I can see him falling in around the .280-.290 range on a regular basis.
It sounds like the Dodgers wanted Guerrero to get adjusted to a new position at the start of this year, and with the lost development time due to Miguel Olivo, he's clearly not getting those reps right now. That said, the Dodgers are right in the thick of the wild card race, and if Dee Gordon doesn't turn things around he could end up losing playing time for a hotter bat. I wouldn't anticipate Guerrero for another month or so in the majors, despite his appearance in this weekend's Buy and Hold. Even with just three months, I can see him providing 7-10 home runs at second base, with a good batting average to go with it. He's not the top prospect I'd be stashing right now in redraft leagues, but he is one worth watching, especially if Dee Gordon does not hit like he did out of the gate.