No Time to be a Prospect: 2B Alexander Guerrero

Cuban Defector 2B Alexander Guerrero looks to make another big jump, from the Cuban Serie Nacionale to the MLB in 2014. (Photo taken from Peter Gammons Daily, source unknown)

Cuban Defector 2B Alexander Guerrero looks to make yet another big jump in 2014; from the Cuban Serie Nacionale to the MLB.
(Photo: Peter Gammons Daily, source unknown)

The L.A. Dodgers figured they’d try their luck again. After signing sensation Yasiel Puig to a then-record deal for a Cuban defector and having it work out fairly well for them, the Dodgers have gone back to their Cuban well in hopes they’ve unearthed another gem. They snapped up Cuban shortstop Alexander Guerrero late in the season on a 4 year 28 million dollar deal, so while they clearly didn’t have the same desire to keep Guerrero in the fold as long as they did Puig, the blue team’s scouts must see something special in the 26 year old, as he’ll be making a million more per year than Puig will, based on AAV. The Dodger’s roster moves since the signing further confirm a rather high amount of faith in the unproven shortstop and his expected move to second-base in the majors, as they declined 2B Mark Ellis‘ 5.75 million dollar option in favor of a one million dollar buyout, leaving them with effectively only Guerrero to man the keystone at the highest level in 2014. Scouts are split on whether his bat will translate and the fact that he’s not going to be given the chance to stick at short on the transition could be viewed as a negative critique of his defense if Hanley Ramirez‘ stubborn refusal to move off short were not a complicating factor. Guerrero profiles as a power hitter with good on-base skills, and as such profiles a bit like a 2B that most any team would be glad to add in Chase Utley. I will also look at how he stacks up against another Cuban defector with some similar peripherals in Alexei Ramirez.

Scouting reports on Guerrero often start and end with his main calling card, and it seems like one of the only things any reasonable sources can agree on. Power is the name of his game, after posting a .270 ISO in his age 23-25 seasons in Cuba. (for reference, Yoenis Cesepedes posted a .295 in the same age-span in the same league – all stats thanks to the wonderful Obstructed View) The same page includes a scouting report in which Guerrero is called ‘rigid’ in the field, and other reports have questioned his range and instincts as well. Scouts are not too high on his hit-tool, but historically scouts have given low-grades to the aggressive types of hitters that dominate the Serie Nacional. Thus far, given the success that both Cesepedes and Puig have seen against good pitching, it seems that we may have to take such criticisms with a grain of salt. Guerrero posted a .387 OBP in his professional career in Cuba, and his ISO comes in at a healthy .225 that is even a bit misleading considering the lowest mark he has posted at the highest level in Cuba was a .240. He posted strikeout rates around 11 and 12% for the last four seasons he played in Cuba and seems to walk nearly as often or more in some seasons. Overall, Guerrero has a nice skillset that should play well in the MLB. As far as plate discipline goes, in his time in Cuba his numbers in that regard look a lot like the numbers that Alexei Ramirez put up at similar ages, and Ramirez has gone on to post excellent strikeout rates in his time in the show, though his walk rate cut approximately in half. Ramirez may be a good comp for plate discipline, but the overall profile just doesn’t line up. Ramirez was a burner on the basepaths where Guerrero has been a hideously ineffective base stealer (2 steals in 10 attempts at the highest level) and Guerrero figures to put up the kind of power numbers that Ramirez can only fluke into (cough*2008*cough) year-in-year-out.

(Typical Cuban Prospect Video courtesy of Sigfried Gonzalez on Youtube)

A comp I like a bit more is framing Guerrero as a Chase Utley type hitter, albeit probably without the plus-plus defense and above-average baserunning. He should hit for the kind of power that Utley has through his career, and could likely see the same kind of see-saw batting average that Utley has as well given that his high-contact approach will make him more susceptible to BABIP fluctuations.

Overall, Dodgers’ fans should have faith in their front office and scouting departments as they have paid dividends for them in the past calendar year. Hopefully they are able to ride the wave of excellent evaluation that they’ve been practicing thus far and Alexander Guerrero justifies their faith in him and their decision to let Ellis hit free agency, count me amongst those positive about his abilities, and put me down for a projected .260/.320/.475 line in 2014, which most teams would love to see from the tip of the diamond.

Summary: Powerful Cuban defector should be rare slugging second-baseman, with a hit-tool that may not be too far behind.

Bodes Well: No one doubts the power – a rare commodity at the keystone, and aggressive Cuban hitters have shown an ability to hit big-league pitching in spite of concerns.

Portends Doom: A 20% SB success rate is disgusting, words like ‘rigid’ and ‘stiff’ most often used to describe his defense (albeit at SS), hasn’t played professionally in over a year.

Projected Arrival: Opening Day 2014

Arbitrary Prawngrade: B

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Posted on November 23, 2013, in Dodgers, Hitters, International Signings, Profile, Promotions and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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