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Post Hype Prospect – Angel Guzman

Angel Guzman, a minor leaguer in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball today for 50 games for a second violation of the minor league drug prevention and treatment program for a drug of abuse, as was announced by the commissioner’s office.  Guzman made 88 appearances, 14 starts, with the Chicago Cubs from 2006-2009 with a 3-10 record and a 4.82 ERA.  While this may seem like another player trying to get back to the show, but this was nowhere near the case.  Guzman was once considered a top prospect with a significant chance to become something special.

In March of 1999, Guzman was signed out of Venezuela by the Kansas City Royals, but his signing was voided due to concerns over the health of Guzman’s arm.  Sensing an opportunity, the Chicago Cubs signed Guzman in November.  While working on a visa in 2000, Guzman pitched in the Venezuelan Summer League for La Pradera (which means the prairie, for those of you who don’t habla espanol), and put up a solid 1.93 ERA across 32.2 IP.  In 2000, the Cubs assigned Guzman to their Short Season A affiliate in the Northwest League, the Boise Hawks, where Guzman immediately showed promise, putting up a 2.23 ERA cross 76.2 innings.  While he only had 63 strikeouts (7.4k/9), he also displayed good control, only walking 2.2 per nine innings.   In 2002, Guzman started the season with the Daytona Cubs, the Cubs’ Low A affiliate in the Midwest League and found immediate success, putting up a silly 1.89 ERA over 62 innings, and was promoted to the Daytona Cubs, the Cubs’ High A affiliate in the Florida State League.  Guzman kept dominating in Daytona, putting up a 2.39 ERA across 94 innings.  After the 2002 season, Guzman was ranked the Cubs’ #2 prospect by Baseball America (Mark Prior was the top Cubs prospect, ranked #2 overall) and the #47 prospect in all of baseball.

In 2003, the Cubs kept pushing Guzman, assigning him to the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx of the AA Southern League.  Guzman responded by dominating, putting up a 2.81 ERA over 89.2 innings while striking out 87 batters.  Guzman was selected to appear in the All Star Futures Game in U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.  Unfortunately, Guzman hurt his labrum (a piece of cartilage that surrounds the joint between the humerus and the shoulder blade) and had surgery in mid-July for the injury.  The injury would slow Guzman, but it was believed that he would bounce back from the surgery.  After the 2003 season, Baseball America ranked Guzman the #1 prospect in the Cubs’ system and the #26 prospect in all of baseball.  Guzman was even ranked the #9 prospect in the Southern League by Baseball America, despite only playing of the half season (which is not uncommon, as rankings are often done based upon performance while in the league and many players do not spend full seasons on one minor league team).

In 2004, Guzman was kept back in extended spring training until May, when he was assigned to the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League.  Making his first appearance on May 13, Guzman looked good, even if his ERA was not spectacular.  Guzman struck out 40 over 30 innings (12K/9) despite his 4.20 ERA.  The Cubs saw enough, promoting him back to the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx of the Southern League.  Guzman did not do as well for the Diamond Jaxx, putting up a 5.60 ERA across 17.2 innings, striking out 13.  While Guzman’s prospect status was beginning to fade, it was still burning quite strong.  Baseball America ranked Guzman the #4 prospect in the Cubs’ farm system and the #88 prospect in all of baseball, and given the “Best Fastball in the Cubs System” superlative.

Guzman complained of forearm stiffness in April of 2005, and did not pitch until August where he made four starts for the Rookie level AZL Cubs, followed by two starts for the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League.  Predictably, Guzman dominated the Arizona League for the AZL Cubs, striking out 17 across 12 innings while allowing just three runs (two earned).  In Peoria, Guzman struck out 7 in 6.1 innings while allowing five runs (three earned).  The Cubs were impressed enough to assign Guzman to the Iowa Cubs of the AAA Pacific Coast League to start the 2006 season.  Guzman showed off his impressive stuff, striking out 77 in 75.2 innings across 15 starts while putting up a 4.04 ERA, which is respectable considering the offense-friendly environment of the PCL.  Promoted to the Major Leagues in early August, Guzman struggled, putting up a 7.39 ERA across 15 games (10 starts), while striking out 60.  Guzman’s undoing was his control, as he walked 37 (5.9 BB/9), but allowing 68 hits (10.4/9) did not help.

Guzman began the 2007 season in the Cubs bullpen, but was sent down to Iowa to get more consistent work and be available as a starter should the need arise.  The results in Iowa were disastrous; Guzman allowed 14 runs (all earned) across 10.1 innings, good for a 12.19 ERA.  Despite this, the Cubs called up Guzman in May and used him as a starter for three games; where Guzman pitched well, putting up a 3.52 ERA across 15.1 innings.  After this, Guzman was sent to the bullpen, where he pitched well, with a 4.70 ERA (one bad outing on May 30 made his ERA explode) across 7.2 IP.  In June, Guzman felt pain in his forearm again, and was put onto the DL.  While rehabbing for the AZL Cubs, the pain continued.  Guzman had torn his ulnar collateral ligament and had Tommy John Surgery, not appearing in another game until August 2008, with the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League.  Guzman appeared in two games for the Daytona Cubs, then one game for the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, followed by four appearances with the Iowa Cubs.  Appearing in his first Major League game in over a year on September 2, Guzman pitched one scoreless inning, allowing one hit and walking one.  Guzman pitched poorly in 2008, putting up a 5.59 ERA across 9.2 innings, while striking out 10.

Guzman spent most of the 2009 with the Cubs, putting up a spectacular 2.95 ERA across 61 innings over 55 relief appearances, striking out 47 (6.9K/9) to go with a sparkling 1.049 WHIP.  Guzman missed some time in late June and early July due to an upper arm strain, and was shut down in September due to the same issue.

2010 was a terrible year for Guzman.  In January, his brother, Daniel Guzman, a drummer for a rock band back in their native Venezuela was traveling in a Jeep Grand Cherokee in Caracas when three armed men intercepted the SUV in which he was riding and shot him.  Daniel died shortly after sustaining the gunshot wounds, and the motives and identities of the shooters are still unknown.  In February, Guzman had surgery on his meniscus and in March Guzman had surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder.  Guzman missed the entire 2010 season recovering from the surgeries.

After the season, the Cubs removed Guzman from the 40-man roster and signed him to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.  After two starts for the Peoria Chiefs in the Midwest League (his fourth time in the Midwest League) to start the 2011 season, Guzman made 19 appearances (17 starts) for the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League (also his fourth time in the FSL), putting up a 4.26 ERA while easing back into pitching by only throwing 31.2 innings.

In the off season, Guzman signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers with an invitation to spring training.  Despite pitching 5.1 scoreless innings in spring training while giving up only one hit, Guzman was never considered a serious candidate to make the Dodgers and was assigned to the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate in the PCL, but did not make an appearance.  Today at 3:45pm EDT (not EST, as the press release states), this release was made:

Dodgers Minor League pitcher Guzman suspended

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that Los Angeles Dodgers Minor League pitcher Angel Guzman has received a 50-game suspension after a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program for a drug of abuse.

The suspension of Guzman, who is currently on the roster of Triple-A Albuquerque of the Pacific Coast League, is effective immediately.

This suspension for a violation, which is not steroids but a “drug of abuse,” will probably end Guzman’s career.  Guzman had been released from the 40-man roster by the Cubs after the 2010 season and the Dodgers were merely using him as an insurance policy, which is never a good sign for a pitcher.

Which begs the question:  What happened to Guzman?  The answer is simple: injuries.  Whenever Guzman seemed to get on a roll, he hurt his arm.  Guzman had Tommy John surgery and shoulder surgery, his arm was not what it once was and his performance bore out the decrease in ability.  In the end, Guzman spent over a decade being paid to play baseball, but, in the end, it’s the “what ifs” that hurt the most.  Guzman could have been an amazing pitcher, and the great “what if” was what could have happened if he had just stayed healthy.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/17740

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=guzman002ang

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/guzmaan01.shtml

http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/7837325/angel-guzman-los-angeles-dodgers-banned-50-games

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100111&content_id=7899794&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

http://www.baseball-fever.com/archive/index.php/t-38200.html

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120420&content_id=29206086&vkey=pr_mlb&c_id=mlb

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