For anyone who has read Bill James, read the book Moneyball, or analyzed baseball deeply, you’ll understand this; Forget defense!
Jesus Guzman, the Padres 27-year old career minor league first baseman, burst onto the scene this year when he was called up on June 16, 2011. In 271 plate appearances he posted a .312/.369/.478 slash-line. He proved to be the one bright spot during the Padres’ bleak summer. Ironically, he provided that spark and that shine at the position that was supposed to be occupied by Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo flopped when he was called up and was quickly sent back to Triple-A Tucson to continue his destruction of PCL pitching. He wasn’t ready for Major League pitching. But Guzman was.
Yet, the Padres seem intent on playing Guzman at first and forcing him to compete for the job. Anthony Rizzo is still a highly touted prospect. One bad stint in his first trip to The Show doesn’t change that. So, let’s operate under the assumption that Rizzo will continue to develop and will provide the Padres with some offense from the first base position. Why keep Guzman there? Jesus Guzman has never been known for his defense. In fact, his defense was the handicap that kept him in the Minor Leagues for most of his career. Perhaps a change in scenery will do him good. No, not a trip to another team. I’m talking about stepping 15 feet to his right and filling the spot Orlando Hudson occupied with about as much flash as – well – as you’d expect from a Padres second baseman.
Guzman’s defense is not so detrimental that he can’t be converted to a second baseman. He would need to work on his double play relays with Jason Barlett. He would need some work covering the bag on pick-off attempts. But he could adjust, and the errors he surely would make at the position would likely be off-set by his offense. Off course this theory, this suggestion based on 271 plate appearances would all be for not should Guzman drop off the table offensively. However, this seems unlikely. Guzman has combined for approximately a half-season’s worth of plate appearances in his short career, 291 to be exact. In that time he has accumulated a .307/.361/.461 line with 5 home runs. That’s enough to plan around, and considering the Padres lack of success at second base combined with the lack of free-agent and minor-league options, Guzman may be the perfect fit.
Orlando Hudson saw just 183 more plate appearances, but his numbers dip drastically compared with Guzman’s. Hudson posted a .246/.329/.352 slash line. He accounted for a wRC+ of 100 (league average), and he amassed only 1 WAR. Guzman put up nearly 2 WAR in less time and blew Hudson out of the water with a wRC+ of 144.
While the Padres may look toward their farm system (not a bad idea I might add), Corey Spangenberg is not quite ready and Drew Cumberland has the skill to play shortstop or second. For the Padres, their new-look front office, their rebuilding status, and their hopes of competing in an ever-improving National League West, Jesus Guzman may be their best option. But only if they move him to second base and clear the way for a first baseman with a little more offensive pop.