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Waiver Wire: San Diego First Baseman Jesus Guzman

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Jesus Guzman is journeyman org player who, at 27, has forced himself into fantasy relevance lately. Guzman's fine play for the Padres afforded Jed Hoyer the luxury of demoting the struggling Anthony Rizzo, and manager Bud Black recently stated that Guzman will remain in the lineup for the foreseeable future. In 35 games played in 2011, he has produced a slash of .337/.382/.589, resulting in a rather impressive 179 wRC+ and .423 wOBA. It's rare that a player can come out of nowhere and produce at that level over half a season, but it does happen.

Is Guzman's current level of performance sustainable?

In short, no. However, there are still encouraging signs. Let's take a look:

In a small sample size (102 plate appearances), Guzman has been one of the lone bright spots in the San Diego lineup, but his performance has been bolstered by a non-insignificant amount of luck when it comes to balls put in play. His BABIP (.368) is quite a bit higher than his xBABIP (.302), though his line drive rate (22.5%) suggests that the truth lies somewhere in between (as is often the case). Evaluated in a vacuum, this statistic suggests that Guzman's batting average and on base percentage will take a dip at some point in the next two months, but not so much of one that he'll fall off of a cliff.

In a situation like this, it helps if a player has an exceptional batting eye, which will often help him through slumps and allow him to see better pitches. Guzman walks a little less (6.9%) than the major league average but also strikes out (14.7%) at a below average rate, and it just so happens that his BB/K rate (0.47) is just above average, so we've got no help in this department. There's not even a case to be made for his swing percentage, which are (again) just about average.

What of Guzman's power? He's posted a robust .258 ISO, and you may be surprised to learn that all four of his home runs have come at spacious PETCO Park, with none of them being classified as "Just Enough" by the ESPN Home Run Tracker. Since his HR/FB rate is pretty reasonable (12.9%) and he's capable of spraying the ball to all fields, there's really no reason to expect a regression in this department. It doesn't hurt that the Padres play 28 of their remaining 50 games away from home.

In other words, we have an overachieving player that will provide adequate power and that will expect some, but not too much, regression in his rate stats. With his numbers the way they are, surely worth a speculative add in most leagues.

Here are two reasons he could be worth even more than that:

  1. As far as I can tell, Jesus Guzman has never played shortstop, either in the majors or the minors, but he is eligible there in ESPN leagues for some reason. This is surely a mistake, but one you can (and probably should) capitalize on. Shortstop is very thin, so if you don't own one of the elite options (or you owned Stephen Drew or have another injury-prone guy), "speculative add" is probably too weak a descriptor for Guzman.
  2. He kills lefties. Against them, his slash improves to .375/.412/.676. If the small sample size makes you nervous, he's produced similar splits in the minor leagues. He's got tons of value if you're inclined to platoon your players, but even if you're not, his performance against righties is respectable enough that he won't kill you. As long as the Padres keep facing lefties, Guzman will remain valuable.

Guzman is only owned in 56.1% of ESPN leagues, though he is quickly getting snapped up. My suspicion is that his status as a non-prospect has caused many to overlook him (especially in the wake of several recent high-profile call-ups). Don't be the one to dismiss him because of his age or less-than-sexy name. Jesus Guzman will not likely continue his blistering pace, but he should be able to provide value, especially if you can use him as a shortstop or have the lineup flexibility to start him exclusively against left-handed pitchers. ZiPS RoS (Rest of Season) projects him to post a .274/.323/.419 with 3 HRs and 16 RBIs the rest of the way. I'd be inclined to take the over, especially on home runs.

Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs, ESPN Home Run Tracker, and and are current through August 4.