Rangers prospect Ronald Guzman hits stride in Round Rock


Once a Little Leaguer in tears, he now is a terror for opposing pitchers.

Guzman aimed to be ‘the next Randy Johnson’ before his bat came alive.

22-year-old first baseman is Texas’ No. 4 overall prospect.

Smiling comes easily to Ronald Guzman, the good-natured top prospect on the Round Rock Express.

Hitting can be difficult, even if it’s been a piece of cake this year. The 22-year-old Dominican is batting .320 and looks like the Texas Rangers’ first baseman of the future, but Guzman wasn’t a natural growing up.

“When I started playing Little League, I was like 6, and I wasn’t good batting,” Guzman said. “Everybody has to get in the game in Little League, so sometimes I’d only have one at-bat. If I got a hit, they had to keep me in and let me run the bases because, if not, I was going to start crying.

“Even then, I loved the game so much, I didn’t want to go off the field, especially after the times I got on base. So I tried to make them keep me in. Looking back, that’s something I always think is funny.”

The humble Pacific Coast League standout is getting on base a lot these days, leading the Express, home to Salt Lake this weekend, with 49 hits and 27 runs scored. Guzman is second in home runs with five and RBIs with 20.

Not bad, considering the Rangers’ No. 4 overall prospect, according to MLB.com, once fancied himself as the guy blowing away batters.

“I was a pitcher. I wanted to be the next Randy Johnson,” the 6-foot-5-inch left-hander said of the 6-10 fireballer.

That changed when Guzman started finding a swing that worked for his body and became a force at the plate. Coaches also tugged at his desire to remain on the field.

“They told me if you’re going to pitch, you’re not going to be able to hit, and I’m like, ‘Ah, I don’t think that’s going to be fun.’ I wanted to be out there every game, so I decided to play outfield.”

Rangers farm director Paul Kruger scouted Guzman extensively in the Dominican Republic before Texas gave the 16-year-old a $3.45 million signing bonus in 2011.

“He was an outfielder with a big arm,” Kruger said. “We moved him to first base, partly because we didn’t have many true first basemen in the system. At 6-5, he’s got a great wingspan and presents a big target.

“At the plate, he’s figuring out how to minimize body movement and trust his hands. With that kind of frame, sometimes it takes longer to get everything in sync. We’re quite pleased with his improvement. He’s having a tremendous season.”

Size can cut both ways.

“I feel like I can get to some pitches other guys can’t,” Guzman said. “But I’ve also got a bigger strike zone to cover. I’ve got to stay short and quick.”

Guzman profiles as a gap hitter, the opposite of the all-or-nothing approach of current Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli.

“We’ve slotted Ronald into that 3 hole, and he keeps the line moving,” Round Rock manager Jason Wood said. “He’s been told not to try to do too much. With two strikes, he’s taking the ball the other way. It’s nice to see that out of a young player.

“He’s hitting the ball all over the place and not worried about power. When he needs to, he can drive the ball.”

Wood envisions Guzman eventually being a 20-home-run hitter in the major leagues.

“Right now he’s working on being a contact-type hitter,” Wood said. “With his swing and leverage, along with the quick hands, the power will come.”

Rangers right fielder Nomar Mazarra said earlier this spring: “There’s a lot he can do with that smooth, left-handed stroke. I know he’ll be here with me before too long.”

Possibly later this season, if Napoli can’t raise his .181 average.

Teammates and club officials laud Guzman’s mental development. A fatal wreck late in 2014 in the Dominican Republic — when a motorcyclist ran into his SUV, flipped over and died — left a lasting impact. Guzman, initially detained by police, was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“That was a tough time, but it helped me mature a lot and get my mind straight,” he said. “It was an awful thing, but God knows it wasn’t my intention, and I didn’t have any fault in this. But I thought about it a lot, and it made me refocus on my own life.”

These days, when Guzman wants to chill away from the field, he’ll watch a movie or hustle his teammates in 2K Games or Mortal Kombat on PlayStation 4.

“Am I good? Yeah, I’m good,” he said, laughing. “Sometimes, I let them win, because if I don’t, they’ll never play me.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Bohls: Chris Beard has Texas Tech floating through tournament

Chris Beard has a clearly defined plan in mind. He and assistant coach Chris Ogden will find a lazy day this spring and gently float down the Frio River in the Texas Hill Country through Garner State Park to decompress from the emotional highs and lows of a college basketball season. “With a cold beverage in hand,” Ogden reminded. Not that...
Texas Stars halt two-game losing streak

The Texas Stars ended their two-game losing streak with a healthy dose of power-play goals in defeating the Manitoba Moose 6-4 on Saturday night at the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park. Six members of the Stars scored goals and Colin Markison assisted on three of them to lead Texas to the win. The Stars (33-22-7-3) chased Jamie Phillips from the goaltending...
Austin Spurs win sixth straight game

Three Spurs scored at least 22 points as Austin defeated the Sioux Falls Skyforce 117-107 in South Dakota on Saturday night to clinch the Southwest division of the NBA G League. Jaron Blossomgame led all scorers with 26 points to help Austin (31-16) pick up its sixth straight win. Blossomgame added eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. &ldquo...
John Beilein on Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater: ‘The guy has an overdose of swag’
John Beilein on Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater: ‘The guy has an overdose of swag’

Jordan Poole pulled off a miracle 3-pointer Saturday night to send the Michigan Wolverines past Houston and onto the Sweet Sixteen. After the game, Michigan coach John Beilein was asked about what makes Jordan Poole, well, Jordan Poole. Beilein did not hold back his true thoughts on who Poole is, and, we love him for it. The 6-foot-4...
NCAA Tournament 2018: Michigan Twitter is going wild after Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater
NCAA Tournament 2018: Michigan Twitter is going wild after Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beater

Michigan beat Houston in the 2018 NCAA Tournament on Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer on Friday night to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. This was March Madness at its absolute finest, and Michigan fans, alumni and athletes couldn’t control themselves. The fans were pure, unbridled joy. Just as they should be: Former...
More Stories