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2019 BYB Tigers prospect #28: Carlos Guzman is one of the fastest risers in the system

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The third-baseman turned starting pitcher will look to expand upon a successful 2018 campaign this season.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Detroit Tigers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

From time to time, one outlet will rank a prospect quite differently than another outlet. While it’s commonplace to find Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Franklin Perez, and Daz Cameron at the top of organizational prospect rankings for the Detroit Tigers, even highly-touted prospects such as Isaac Paredes (our No. 3 prospect) can be ranked dramatically differently in other rankings (Paredes is only the 13th-best prospect in the Tigers’ system, according to MLB Pipeline).

This may just be a sign that some lists are more informed than others, of course, but once in a while, the reverse occurs and a major outlet ranks a prospect much higher than others. This is what happened when Baseball Prospectus ranked Carlos Guzman, a 20-year-old right-handed pitching prospect, their No. 10 prospect in the Tigers organization.

Who is Carlos Guzman? Why did he receive such a high ranking from Baseball Prospectus when he is currently unranked by FanGraphs and MLB Pipeline? Why is he only No. 28 on our list? Let’s find out.

Background

The Tigers signed Guzman out of Venezuela on a minor-league contract on March 4, 2015, twelve days before his 17th birthday. He joined the Tigers’ farm system that same year and played two years in rookie ball — as a third baseman. The results were uninspiring, to say the least; he posted a .421 OPS and 31 wRC+ in 2015 over 99 plate appearances, then posted an even worse .336 OPS and 12 wRC+ in 2016 over a mere 32 plate appearances.

In 2017, Guzman was converted to a pitcher, likely due to his struggles at the plate, but also due to his ability to throw in the mid-90s. The results were very encouraging, as he posted a 0.70 ERA in rookie ball while striking out 8.8 batters per nine innings. Then, in 2018, he continued his success. Between time in Low-A and High-A ball, Guzman struck out 9.3 batters per nine innings while only walking 2.4 per nine and allowing 0.9 home runs per nine. His 3.78 ERA wasn’t nearly as dominant as the 0.70 mark from a year prior, but the up-tick in strikeouts clearly turned heads. His best outing came on August 16 of last year, as he pitched six perfect innings for the Connecticut Tigers.

Strengths

As our managing editor wrote in the initial release of our Top 30 Prospects list, Guzman throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball, ranging anywhere from 92-97 mph, depending on the source. Baseball Prospectus was most impressed of all.

His low-90s fastball comes out easy and features wicked armside run that you can’t teach. His velocity was inconsistent this season. He touched 95 at times, but also had starts where he sat 89-92. There’s projection left in his frame though, and his mechanics are free and easy, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s a 92-95 guy with more reps and physical development.

Guzman also has a high-upside secondary offering in his changeup, which can be thrown nearly 10 mph slower than his fastball without him changing his arm speed. He has enough confidence to throw it at any time too, an impressive feat for an inexperienced pitcher. This lethal combination has allowed Guzman to post impressive strikeout numbers at lower levels and should continue to help him progress through the minor leagues.

Additionally, he stands at 6’1 while currently weighing 170 pounds. Should he continue to grow, his fastball velocity could jump even higher than its current lower-90s range. Any added weight should also help him shoulder a starter’s workload as he progresses, so long as he does not lose the athleticism that helps him maintain his easy delivery.

Weaknesses

While Guzman’s fastball and changeup could potentially become a lethal combination in the majors someday, he currently lacks other solid secondary pitches. He is currently developing a slider, but primarily relies on his two main pitches, and his command is reportedly still in development.

That said, Guzman has only pitched for two full seasons, and made his first appearance in Lakeland being three years younger than the average player in the Florida State League. Should he fail to develop further secondary offerings, the fastball and changeup combination could very well be enough to make he a reliable major league reliever in the future. Should his command and secondary arsenal continue to develop and the strikeouts continue to come, however, Guzman could be the greatest diamond-in-the-rough in the Tigers farm system.

Projected 2019 Team: West Michigan Whitecaps

Guzman only pitched a single inning in Lakeland in 2018 and, as previously mentioned, was three years younger than the average player in the Florida State League. Therefore, it makes sense that he will land in Single-A ball with West Michigan to start the season. It’s hard to tell how far he could advance in his 2019 campaign. He may make it to Lakeland before the season is done despite his age, but it’s hard to imagine him getting as high as the Erie rotation this season. He is a high-risk prospect, and won’t see the big leagues for another few years at least, but quote Rob once more, Guzman’s Whitecap starts will be must-watch TV this season.