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The “Futures” stock called Jorge

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A look into Jorge Guzman and his long-term impact on the Marlins pitching outlook.

Guzman at the 2018 SiriusXM Future Game

Jorge Guzman is a name that symbolizes hope for many Marlins fans. Acquired in the Stanton deal, he is a prospect whose arm strength and strikeout potential make him one of the most important prospects in a long time in the Marlins system from a pitching standpoint.

Jorge just finished representing the organization in the Futures Game, pitching 23 of an inning and showing elite velocity that has intrigued so many fans. He threw 7 of 10 pitches for strikes while sitting at 98-99 mph. This is a welcoming sign for such an important prospect.

Today, we are going to take a look at his “now” performance and what he should end up being for the Fish.

So, who is Jorge Guzman?

Jorge is all about heat. He possesses a 6-foot-2, 182-pound frame that will fill out nicely with age. He has a sturdy torso and a strong lower half that will allow him to pitch with power for a long time. This will also will promote pitching durability throughout his career. His quick arm makes an already high velocity fastball seem absolutely overwhelming. That late life helps him initiate weak contact to the tune of only 5 HR in 14 starts this season despite a high fly ball rate (we will discuss this later). He has a closed low kick in his wind up that should allow him to repeat his compact delivery rather consistently. He throws the ball from a three-quarters release point, and it’s mind-boggling how he accumulates walks at times with such a simplistic delivery.

Guzman has walked 39 batters in 65 innings and varying walk rates has been a common theme over his career. He had an outstanding June where he only walked nine batters in 24 innings while striking out 31. He followed it up with a July where he walked seven in 9 innings. He clearly shows here that he has the potential to command his repertoire.

The 22-year-old flashes an average slider with nice tilt and depth that will probably be above average. He has to “finish” the pitch better in order to avoid hanging the slider. He slows his arm down as well tipping the slider so this will hopefully be corrected as he advances. Eventually, it will match extremely well with his lightning fastball. Additional work on a changeup would be optimal for him to reach his peak level of success.

From a numbers standpoint, what stands out about him are his BAA (batting average against) and K’s, with respective totals of .225 and 64 strikeouts in 2018. I always ask ,“Are you getting hit” when I evaluate a pitcher. If guys are having trouble hitting a pitcher consistently, as is the case with Guzman, good things are ahead. It would be ideal for him to miss more bats, but the goal is outs. He clearly is showing that he has a skill of getting them.

Despite this positive, there are a number of concerns present...

Concern #1: Walks

His walk rates have been inconsistent over his career. He has mostly alternated walk rates in the double digits with single-digit numbers over his minor league career.

Jorge Guzman Walks & Strikeouts, 2015-2018

Season Team K/9 BB/9 K% BB% K-BB% AVG
Season Team K/9 BB/9 K% BB% K-BB% AVG
2015 Astros (R) 5.4 5.4 11.40% 11.40% 0.00% 0.322
2015 Astros (R) 2 7 5.10% 18.00% -12.80% 0.25
2015 Astros (R) 5.18 4.09 11.90% 9.40% 2.50% 0.254
2016 Astros (R) 11.51 2.78 29.00% 7.00% 22.00% 0.272
2016 Astros (R) 12.98 5.19 36.80% 14.70% 22.00% 0.071
2017 Yankees (A-) 11.88 2.43 33.50% 6.80% 26.60% 0.21
2018 Marlins (A+) 8.86 5.4 22.50% 13.70% 8.80% 0.218

He spent a significant amount of time in rookie ball, likely to hone his control.

I strongly believe in honing fastball command, as referenced by his former coach with the Yankees in the video above. This is something he has shown improvement with over the last year. The hope is that this can be ironed out by maturity and having a greater understanding of how to attack hitters and master pitch sequencing.

Concern 2: Ground ball rates

Despite having premium velocity, Guzman hasn’t always made a ton of bats miss. It is imperative that when hitter do make contact, he generates ground balls. High-velocity line drives and flyballs will turn into home runs.

He has normally done a great job in this area throughout his minor league career, so hopefully his 2018 is an anomaly.

Jorge Guzman Batted Ball Types, 2015-2018

Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
2015 Astros (R) 1.1 8.30% 47.90% 43.80% 4.80% 37.30% 27.50% 35.30%
2015 Astros (R) 2.43 11.10% 63.00% 25.90% 0.00% 50.00% 16.70% 33.30%
2015 Astros (R) 1.22 12.30% 48.20% 39.50% 31.10% 43.90% 21.10% 35.00%
2016 Astros (R) 2.36 23.00% 54.10% 23.00% 21.40% 30.20% 19.10% 50.80%
2016 Astros (R) 5.5 10.30% 75.90% 13.80% 0.00% 48.40% 19.40% 32.30%
2017 Yankees (A-) 2.16 22.00% 53.30% 24.70% 21.60% 41.60% 16.90% 41.60%
2018 Marlins (A+) 0.92 21.40% 37.60% 41.00% 19.70% 45.30% 21.80% 33.00%

More importantly, Guzman’s fly ball rate has elevated and that could be attributed to a variety of factors—more advanced hitters with launch angle ambitions, an inability to work the inside half effectively, etc. As you can see from this video, he battles his control quite a bit and also has some issues due to hitters crowding the plate.

One thing you can see is that these are clearly uncomfortable at-bats for hitters in the box against Guzman. That is a hallmark of a frontline pitcher. Take a peek at Carlos Martínez from the Cardinals and you can see several similarities in his numerical progression.

Carlos Martínez Minor League Stats, 2010-2014

Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% K/9 BB/9 K% BB% AVG Pull% Cent% Oppo%
Season Team GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% K/9 BB/9 K% BB% AVG Pull% Cent% Oppo%
2010 Cardinals (R) 1.02 7.00% 47.00% 46.10% 35.80% 11.9 2.14 35.90% 6.50% 0.142 41.70% 29.20% 29.20%
2011 Cardinals (A) 2.55 9.30% 65.10% 25.60% 13.60% 11.64 3.26 32.10% 9.00% 0.196 35.20% 23.90% 40.90%
2011 Cardinals (A+) 1.1 22.30% 40.80% 36.90% 22.90% 9.39 5.87 21.80% 13.60% 0.266 41.20% 16.20% 42.70%
2012 Cardinals (A+) 1.33 13.50% 49.40% 37.10% 12.10% 9.27 2.73 24.10% 7.10% 0.232 40.00% 28.90% 31.10%
2012 Cardinals (AA) 2.14 10.70% 60.90% 28.40% 23.20% 7.32 2.78 19.70% 7.50% 0.232 51.90% 20.70% 27.40%
2013 Cardinals (AA) 2.22 19.40% 55.60% 25.00% 33.30% 6.94 0.77 18.80% 2.10% 0.239 37.80% 27.00% 35.10%
2013 Cardinals (AAA) 1.56 9.60% 55.10% 35.30% 16.70% 8.34 3.57 21.80% 9.30% 0.211 47.70% 23.30% 29.00%
2014 Cardinals (AAA) 1.4 17.20% 48.30% 34.50% 30.00% 6.1 0.87 18.90% 2.70% 0.167 44.80% 17.20% 37.90%

Walks in early levels of minors, repeating levels to show dominance in terms of BAA and K rates. Personally, I would take a Martínez type pitcher if I got the chance.

Though its too early to predict Guzman’s entire developmental track, the one thing that stands out for me is his delivery. Its compactness (we have to credit the Yankees for encouraging that) will be key to rectifying the consistency issues as he repeats it extremely well. He needs to continue to finish his pitches—as you can probably notice from the highlights, his strikes tend to show his hand getting “on top” of the ball where his balls seem to lag behind or he gets “underneath”.

There is a ton to like in Jorge and I strongly believe that he will reach his goal of top-of-the-rotation starter. I’m a big proponent of velocity and if you have an arm that shows any fastball command, you have an arm that can be special. His success will ultimately come down to his ability to stay ahead in counts. If he can accomplish this, along with the eventual progression of his secondaries, we should make out pretty well on this deal.