When Rangers prospect Ronald Guzman joined the Single-A Hickory Crawdads late last month, he immediately became the most polished hitter in a lineup that includes five of the organization’s top 10 prospects. A 6-foot-5 first baseman with a mature lefty swing and solid approach, Guzman ranked no. 9 in the Texas system entering this season.
The Dominican Republic native joined the professional ranks with some fanfare in July 2011, as he signed for a reported $3.45 million bonus. His bonus is the third largest ever given to a Latin American amateur hitter, behind only Rangers farm-mates and fellow outfielders Nomar Mazara ($4.95MM) and Jairo Beras ($4.5 MM).
Guzman lived up to the lofty expectations in the rookie Arizona League last summer, posting a .321/.374/.434 slash line in 52 games. He added 15 doubles, three triples, and one home run while drawing 19 walks and striking out 42 times.
The 18-year-old Guzman continued to mature physically this past offseason––according to him, he’s now 6-foot-5 and one-half inches––and he’s showing more sock in games as a result. Coming into this year, he was expected to break camp with Hickory. But a torn meniscus in his right knee led to surgery on March 15, and the prospect was sidelined until May. Guzman has since returned and joined the Crawdads. He’s off to a fast start, going 18-for-45 (.400) with three doubles and two round-trippers through 13 contests.
In addition to the potential plus hit tool and average-to-plus future game power, the left-handed hitting Guzman comes with an intriguing story. When he signed as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, he not only already spoke English well, but he had also graduated high school––a rarity for young Dominican signees.
I recently caught up with Guzman while he was finishing his rehab at extended spring training. In the interview, we discussed his game on the field, his parents’ emphasis on getting an education, and his experience in the 2010 Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field.