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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Angel Guzman

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 12/14/81, Age: 21, Height: 6’2’’, Weight: 180, Bats: R, Throws: R. Acquired: Cubs - Signed out of Venezuela in 1999. 2001 Stats: (Rookie - Boise) 10-2, 2.23 ERA, 77 IP, 68 H, 2 HR, 19 BB, 63 K. 2002 Stats: (Low-A - Lansing) 5-2, 1.89 ERA, 62 IP,42 H, 3 HR, RHRH16 BB, 49 K; (High-A - Daytona) 6-2, 2.39 ERA, 94 IP, 99 H, 2 HR, 33 BB, 74 K.
   Just five years after trotting out Steve Trachsel, Kevin Foster, Terry Mulholland, Jeremi Gonzalez, Frank Castillo, Kevin Tapani, Mark Clark, Miguel Batista, Amaury Telemaco, Dave Swartzbaugh, and Rodney Myers for 162 starts, the Cubs received 121 starts from pitchers with sub 3.75 ERAs (Kerry Wood, Matt Clement, Jon Lieber, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano), which absolutely qualifies as a complete about-face. Lieber (the oldest by five years) has gone off to the pinstriped graveyard, but there are plenty of alternatives in the system for that fifth spot in coming seasons: one of them being Angel Guzman. Guzman, in his first full season, looked very sharp in both the Midwest League and the FSL in 2002. He works off a hard sinker (thrown in the 92-94 mph range) to set up an inconsistent (but at times devastating) curve and a solid change. All three of his pitches are major league caliber, but his curve has come and gone rather frequently so far in his brief career. His control isn’t outstanding, but it ranged from very good in Lansing to adequate at Daytona. As you’d expect from a sinker-ball pitcher, he keeps the ball in the park extremely well, allowing only seven homers in 233 IP since signing. After watching the “rocket-like” (pun intended) ascent of Mark Prior through the system last year, hopes of a similar move from Guzman have been fueled by his success at his first three levels, but I think that train of thought is premature. Guzman’s strikeout rate is good, but not dominant like Prior, Cruz, or Zambrano illustrated. I would expect a much-slower move through the system from Angel, but a similar final destination to the aforementioned trio.
    The Cubs, as discussed last week, are in an enviable situation. They have a star that, if they move quickly enough, can carry the rather young lineup, along with a pitching staff that just plain throws BBs. Catcher might be a weak spot, and the “closer” enjoys producing Maalox-moments rather than alleviating them, but those are relatively minor concerns. In my opinion, the Cubs have as good a shot as anyone at the NL Central title this year. Angel Guzman has an opportunity to grab one of a few available jobs if he moves along in a reasonable fashion, although Andy Sisco and Luke Hagerty are going to push him from behind. Right now, Wood, Prior, Clement, Estes, and Zambrano is the probable Opening Day rotation for Chicago, and the first three there appear to be impregnable. Zambrano has the potential to be at least as good as Guzman does, so you can’t say that his job is up for grabs, which leaves Estes. Baker likes him, but Guzman might be able to push him out by 2005. My best comparison for Guzman is Derek Lowe, whom (despite his ’02) I view as a #2 or #3 starter. Coincidentally, that is the type of role that I expect Guzman to eventually own for the Cubs, behind Prior and Wood. Not a bad ceiling by any stretch, but perhaps not quite as high as the hype has driven it at this point. Guzman should start the season back at Daytona (as far as I’m concerned), but there is quite a bit of talk about starting him at West Tennessee (AA), so I’d bet that’s where he will open. Chicago by mid-2004 is a distinct possibility. 


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