Jeison Guzman has had an inconsistent minor league career, thus far. But during this offseason, the KC Royals have shown they believe in him.
I will admit to being surprised when the KC Royals chose to protect young Jeison Guzman on the 40-man roster. Even with expanded rosters, it was difficult for me to imagine a big-league club taking him and keeping him in the major leagues all season.
I was even a little surprised when he got invited to the KC Royals big league camp. But, as usual, it appears very possible that the KC Royals know a little more about baseball and pro potential than I do.
It is not that Guzman was ever a bad signing. Far from it. He was originally signed as a highly sought after international free agent back in 2015, at the same time as Seuly Matias, for $1.5 million. And, he has never been bad enough to be labeled a bust in his route through the early minor leagues.
Jeison Guzman, however, has also never really been considered a top prospect, either. When our prospect list was a dumpster fire back in 2016 he got some attention as a Top 25 guy. But, even now, he does not appear in the Top 30 prospects for the KC Royals. And it is not just prospective superstar shortstops like Bobby Witt ranked ahead of him. Infielders like Brady McConnell and Kevin Merrell remain ranked noticeably ahead of him.
In 2019, Guzman hit .253 in A-ball for Lexington. He was named the Lexington Player of the Year. He hit 35 extra-base hits, including 7 home runs. He finished with an OPS of .669. Not a bad season for a 20-year-old kid. But he failed to maintain an On Base Percentage over .300, and he has never slugged over .400.
Through his first nine games in big league spring training, he is helping the KC Royals prove their point about keeping him protected. He has looked comfortable at shortstop. He has four hits in ten at-bats, including a home run. And, even though he has struck out 5 times, he appears way more at ease against big-league pitching than I would have expected, just based on his performance in A-ball.
2020 could be a big season for Guzman’s future prospects. It will be his age 21 season. If he wants to be more than a defensive specialist like Humberto Arteaga, he needs to show he can either get on base more frequently or tap into that power a little more easily.
If he can somehow both get on base more and show more consistent pop, he has the chance to become a truly special player. And, having one or two of these off the radar prospects step up this year is exactly what could move the needle for the farm system of the KC Royals. Those are the improvements that could move this minor league system from having some promise in the middle of the pack to a top organization.