You probably haven’t noticed him. He’s probably slipped past your radar. His success doesn’t matter to you. He plays for the San Diego Padres, a team that has (at the time of this article) lost nine straight games. He is Jesus Guzman, and his career is fascinating.
Guzman was drafted by the Mariners in 2000 as a Venezuelan teen. In 2004, he came to the states and played high-A ball in the Mariners organization before being promoted to AA. After two successful seasons there, he was dumped back down to single-A. The next season, he found himself traded to the Athletics organization. Guzman progressed through AA, AAA, and the rookie league that season then, in 2009 was sent across the Bay to San Francisco. Finally, after six seasons in the Minor Leagues, Guzman made it to the show. In limited action, 12 games to be exact, he was unimpressive and sent back to AAA. The Giants outrighted him to AAA for good in 2010 so he was free to sign elsewhere. Which he did. In November of 2010, Guzman signed with the Padres. By midway through 2011, he was part of the big league club.
But that’s just the background to his story. The true story is that of a successful Minor Leaguer who was never really given a shot in the big leagues. This is a story of a player who saw action in 756 Minor League games, came to the plate 3,326 times, and posted a career Minor League triple slash of .305/.373/.480. Guzman’s is the strange story of successful ball player with nowhere to play.
Teams seemed to be afraid of his defense. They placed less value on him as a player because of his .949 career Minor League fielding percentage. They all failed to realize his offense overcame his defense. They all failed to place the right value on him, and they let him wallow in the Minor Leagues his entire career. But the Padres saw something else.
The Padres saw a player with a high on-base percentage and a 1.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio. They brought him up to the Show this season and all Guzman has done is rake. He is currently hitting .326/.379/.516. In only 206 plate appearances this season, Guzman has accounted for 15 Runs Above Replacement and can boast a 1.6 WAR.
To make things better for the Padres, Guzman is working on a Minor League contract. They have a chance to lock up Cameron Maybin and Jesus Guzman to long-term deals. Guzman, when valued properly, is the type of player you can build a team around. He is a bright spot in a dark lonely season mostly spent in the cellar.