South Side Hit Pen Top Prospect 47: Ronaldo Guzman

Is Ronaldo Guzman in the dugout way over there? It’s theoretically possible. If not, well, it’s tough finding photos of a 17-year-old DSL ace.



Ronaldo Guzman
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
6´0´´
150 pounds
Age: 17
SSHP rank among all left-handed starting pitchers in the system: 4
2020 South Side Sox Top Prospect Vote: 44

Ronaldo Guzman, a native of the Dominican Republic, received a $75,000 signing bonus on Oct. 29, 2018, which may turn out to be the best under-the-radar signing of an international pitcher ever for the White Sox. In 2019, his first taste of professional ball, Guzman posted a 4.53 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 14 outings (12 starts) spanning 51 ⅔ innings. In those innings, he relinquished 43 hits (.221) and 29 walks (12.8%) while striking out a whopping 76 (33.5%). While those numbers are outstanding for someone who didn’t turn 17 until late August, Guzman’s numbers would’ve been even better if not for one bad relief outing; you throw that bad boy away and you get an 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Keep in mind, also, that Guzman was approximately 2.3 years younger than the DSL average. Certainly his walks were an issue, in addition to a low ground ball rate (37.9%). With his youth, however, Guzman has plenty of time to work on those things.

Ben Badler of Baseball America said this of Guzman prior to this season: “fastball that gets up to 89 mph with easy arm action and an athletic delivery that repeats well to throw strikes with an advanced changeup for his age.” As Guzman gets older, you’d expect him to gain more height and weight, which can only help with durability and velocity. Guzman has a crazy-high ceiling.

While it wouldn’t be a complete shock if Guzman returns to the DSL White Sox for the 2020 season due to his age, he seems a great bet to begin the season with the AZL affiliate instead.

 

Deep Dive: rookie league left-handed starters

Hidden diamond: Avery Weems struck out 74 and only walked 10 while pitching for the AZL Sox and Great Falls this year (@GFVoyagers).


“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:

  1. Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
  2. Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
  3. Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
  4. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  5. Free agent options at that position

While the list of southpaw starters who finished the 2019 season with White Sox rookie league affiliates isn’t very long, there are some pitchers to keep an eye on. They include the organization’s two top college hurler picks in 2019, not to mention a pitcher in the DSL who has one of the highest upsides of anyone in the system.

Ages below are as of April 1, 2020


Great Falls Voyagers

Avery Weems
6´2´´
205 pounds
Age: 22

Weems, a native of Flagstaff, Ariz., spent his first two years in college with Yavapai Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona. Used primarily as a swingman for the Wildcats, he pitched in far more games as a reliever during his junior and senior seasons (34) than as a starter (17).

Weems, despite showing better control during his senior season, was far more hittable and his numbers suffered for it. As a senior, he posted a 7.06 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 25 games (eight starts) spanning 58 2/3 innings — relinquishing 80 hits (.316 OBA) and 16 walks while fanning 44 in the process. Being a likely option for an under-slot sign as a senior, Weems was an attractive target for the White Sox after they drafted varsity pitchers Matthew Thompson and Andrew Dalquist in the second and third rounds in 2019. Weems was chosen in the sixth round and ultimately signed for $10,000 ($286,400 less than slot value).

For what seemed to most fans as a throwaway pick, Weems actually surprised for the White Sox. He stayed close to home for his first four games (with the AZL White Sox), posting an otherworldly 0.69 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 13 innings as he surrendered just 10 hits (.217 OBA) and three walks (5.9%) while striking out 14 (27.5%). Weems then held his own in the more challenging Pioneer League, as he compiled a 2.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP for Great Falls in 47 1/3 innings as he allowed just 43 hits (.239 OBA) and seven walks (3.7%) while fanning 60 (31.7%). While it’s true that Weems was older than the average Pioneer League player, it wasn’t by all that much (five months). Thus, his great results shouldn’t be taken too lightly.

Baseball America’s scouting report at the time of the draft, said that “he’s a pitchability southpaw who throws strikes.” Also according to BA, Weems features a low-90s fastball that touched 94 this year. The fastball is complemented with an average curveball and an infrequently-used changeup that comes in straight. Not exactly an enticing scouting report, but the White Sox must’ve seen something in him others did not. Perhaps with a few tweaks, Weems simply added more movement to his curve and change while adding more oomph to his fastball? Regardless, with the numbers he posted this year, Weems should be in line to begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis.

Dan Metzdorf
5´10´´
165 pounds
Age: 23

Unlike the aforementioned Weems, Metzdorf enjoyed a more successful senior season in 2019. For Boston College, Metzdorf posted a solid 2.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 11 starts. In 73 innings for the Eagles, he surrendered just 56 hits (.204 OBA) and 28 walks while striking out 65. Because of his diminutive size, and also because he doesn’t have top-notch stuff, Metzdorf was expected to be drafted much later. However, Metzdorf was selected in the fifth round of this year’s draft for the same reason Weems was selected in the sixth — signability. Metzdorf received a $10,000 signing bonus from the White Sox, which was around $384,000 less than slot value (which aided the Sox in signing Thompson and Dalquist).

Metzdorf, because of his better college credentials, started the season with Great Falls and acquitted himself quite nicely. In 14 starts spanning 40 innings (the White Sox don’t usually extend their starters too much in their first pro seasons) for the Voyagers, he posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP by ceding 44 hits (.286 OBA) and eight walks (4.8%) while striking out 36 (21.4%). Despite giving up some hits, Metzdorf limited the damage by keeping the ball down (55.1% ground ball rate) and throwing strikes.

Baseball America’s scouting report says “Metzdorf’s stuff isn’t huge, but he’s a solid strike thrower and has a fastball that sits 86-89 mostly, though he did ratchet that up to 93 late in the season. His slider and changeup are both fringe-average pitches at best.” Metzdorf is definitely undersized, so questions about his durability as a starter may persist for the next couple of years as a result. He’s also a year older than Weems, so if Metzdorf performs well at Kannapolis next year, he could earn a quick promotion to Winston-Salem.


AZL White Sox

Hector Acosta
6´4´´
200 pounds
Age: 21

Acosta, a Dominican native, was one of nine players who signed on 2016’s International Signing Day (along with notables Josue Guerrero, Anderson Comas, Luis Mieses, Anthony Coronado and Lenyn Sosa, to name just a few). While Acosta performed quite well for the DSL White Sox in 2017 and the beginning of 2018, he has struggled badly since his promotion to the team’s AZL squad in late June 2018.

This year for the AZL White Sox, Acosta appeared in 12 games (10 starts) and posted an unsightly 6.32 ERA and 1.96 WHIP in 47 innings, allowing 74 hits (.346 OBA) and 18 walks (7.6%) while striking out 23 (9.7%). Lefties hit him even more loudly (.368) than righties (.336) These numbers are so far short of Acosta’s DSL numbers, it seems to indicate he’s either battling through injuries and/or a lack of confidence in his new environment. This year, Acosta was about a half-year younger than the league average. If he does return to the organization, it likely would be for another AZL stint, and perhaps one last shot to prove himself.


DSL White Sox

Ronaldo Guzman
6´0´´
150 pounds
Age: 17

Guzman, a native of the Dominican Republic, received a $75,000 signing bonus on Oct. 29, 2018, which may turn out to be the best under-the-radar signing of an international pitcher ever for the White Sox. In his first taste of professional ball this year, Guzman posted a 4.53 ERA and 1.39 WHIP in 14 outings (12 starts) spanning 51 2/3 innings. In those innings, he relinquished 43 hits (.221) and 29 walks (12.8%) while striking out a whopping 76 (33.5%). While those numbers are outstanding for someone who didn’t turn 17 until late August, Guzman’s numbers would’ve been even better if not for one bad relief outing; you throw that bad boy away and you get an 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Keep in mind, also, that Guzman was approximately 2.3 years younger than the DSL average. Certainly his walks were an issue, in addition to a low ground ball rate (37.9%). With his youth, however, Guzman has plenty of time to work on those things.

Ben Badler of Baseball America said this of Guzman prior to this season: “fastball that gets up to 89 mph with easy arm action and an athletic delivery that repeats well to throw strikes with an advanced changeup for his age.” As Guzman gets older, you’d expect him to gain more height and weight, which can only help with durability and velocity. Of the pitchers listed in this post, Guzman has easily the highest ceiling.

While it wouldn’t be a complete shock if Guzman returns to the DSL White Sox for the 2020 season due to his age, he seems a great bet to begin the season with the AZL affiliate instead.

 

2019 DSL White Sox season recap

Bonus baby: Top international signee Yolbert Sánchez was old for the level, but performed well in the DSL. (@Cuba_Lite)

Though the DSL White Sox did not make the playoffs at 36-34 on the season, this team was a massive improvement over 2018. A year ago, the DSL Sox finished an abysmal 18-54 — so they won twice as many games this season, and it certainly seemed like they had twice the talent.

But before we get to the top talent, a little update on a couple of more minor DSL figures. First, Francisco Benitez:

At 18, Benitez had a 8.06 ERA in 22 1/3 innings pitched in the DSL. If he stays with the Sox next season, he will still have some time to serve on his PED suspension.

Luis Rodriguez is the other notable update, because he was the only player from the 2019 DSL squad to receive a promotion to the States. Rodriguez left the DSL with a 4.34 ERA and 3.12 FIP in 29 innings. He was used mostly as a starter, but his walk rate fell considerably and so at 19, he was ready to go play in the States. In the AZL, Rodriguez did not do as well. He had a 6.54 ERA, and his K-BB rate was only 3.3%. Though it was not a great first stint, it is notable that Rodriguez was the only promotion, and that he is just 19, playing baseball in unfamiliar Arizona.

But on to the guys that played all their baseball in the Domincan Republic, and quite a few played excellently — especially a few young teenagers.


Benyamin Bailey

Bailey took fans and the DSL by storm early, and though he struggled some down the stretch, the tools are there. FanGraphs now has him as the 30th-best prospect in the White Sox system, with a 35+ future value grade (check out their full rankings here). FanGraphs highlights Bailey’s build, which for a 17-year-old is astounding, and a little unbelievable, at 6´4´´, 215 pounds. That build helps Bailey to be projected as a power-hitting corner outfielder, but he’s 17, and a lot can change with a body. For what it’s worth, FanGraphs lists Bailey’s ETA to the big leagues as 2024, so yeah, a lot can change. For what Bailey actually did this season, the plate discipline is the big reason why he was so successful and why outlets like FanGraphs paid attention. Bailey walked (21.4%) more than he struck out (16.5%). Some might say it’s the DSL, where the umpires are not great and the pitchers are not polished enough to hit the zone regularly, but Bailey is 17, and what he did was impressive, even in the DSL. He ended his season with a slash line of .322/.477/.454, with a couple of homers and a .130 ISO. It will be interesting to see where he ends the year next season, but hopefully Bailey’s 2020 starts in the AZL.


Yolbert Sánchez

With the Luis Robert signing restrictions finally over, the Sox went out and signed one big-dollar free agent in Sánchez. The middle infielder signed with the Sox to the tune of a $2.5 million bonus. He is rated as the 22nd-best White Sox prospect by MLB Pipeline and the 24th-best per FanGraphs. Sánchez is known more for his defense, as it is his strong suit. He should rise up the ranks quickly next season, especially if hit bat develops. Scouts also point out his plus speed. Most of Sánchez’s production with the bat came down the stretch. He ended the year with a .297/.386/.441 slash line and also walked more than he struck out (though he is old for the level at 22, and accomplishing that in the DSL). Sánchez hit two home runs on top of that, but his profile doesn’t suggest he will have much power as he moves up the ranks.


Ronaldo Guzman

Guzman was a highlighted by Ben Badler before the season because of his 89 mph fastball and an advanced change. He didn’t sign for much ($75,000), but Guzman is one of the few interesting DSL White Sox pitchers. The now 17-year-old was great this season, even with an ERA at 4.53. For what it’s worth (and in the DSL, not sure how much it means), but Guzman did have a much better-looking 3.19 FIP and 2.97 xFIP. This is mostly from a great K-rate at 33.5%, probably from that advanced fastball-change combo. Guzman should start next year in the AZL, and with the great stuff he already has, he could move on quickly.


The Rest

Because of the ages and DSL experience, it will always be difficult to surmise who can be a “guy” in the future. The three players above, because of their pedigree, age, and in Sanchez’s case, bonus money, are easy players to keep an eye on down the road. The rest are not so easy.

Of the hitters, there are a couple of note to keep an eye on. Johnabiell Laureano had just as great a season as Bailey, but he is more than a year older. In Laureano’s second DSL season, he had a wRC+ of 167 and gained 137 points on his batting average.

There are a few catchers of note, although Luis Pineda is notable for not reaching the expectations of his bonus. He only played in 24 games, hitting a balmy .185 with a 36.3% K-rate. Jefferson Mendoza and Ruben Benavides were the positives of the position. In Mendoza’s second season in the Dominican, everything went right. He showed a much better hit tool and played up to his previous max bonus of $300,000. Benavides had the highest wRC+ of the group, but it was in just 80 plate appearances. He showed pop, with 11 extra-base hits, and is newly 18, so he has a bit more of a youth advantage.

Back to the downside of the group, as some relatively high dollar players faltered this year. Alberto Bernal, Elijah Tatís, and Lazaro Leal all failed to reach their potential this year. Bernal and Tatís are both younger and will probably stay in the DSL next season. Bernal was a regular player, but had the worst batting average on the team. Tatís certainly has not looked like the other Tatís, who shall not be named. Leal was signed from Cuba and is already 22, so a down year in the DSL at that age is concerning. Though Leal did walk more than he struck out, the bat-to-ball skills were not there, with a .225 batting average.

The better side are a pair of 17-year-olds in Wilber Sanchez and Anthony Espinoza. Espinoza was more high-profile than Sanchez to begin the year because of a larger bonus; he finished with a .263 average but without much power. Sanchez had a similar season, but his BABIP and BB-rate were a little better. He finished with a slash line of .288/.391/.395 and after a season like that, should be in the AZL to start 2020.

On the pitching end, there is not much else besides Guzman. There was another 16 year-old for the DSL in Jose Jimenez, but he only pitched in 5 2/3 innings. Some pitchers did do well, but they were relievers like Manuel Veloz, or a little on the older side like Erick Perez and Homer Cruz, so their ceilings are not too high. Though Veloz, who had an ERA of 0.91 in 39 2/3 innings, and Perez, who had a 1.92 ERA in 51 2/3 innings, were fantastic.

It was unnerving to learn the Sox did not spend their full bonus allotment in the first year out of the restrictions from the Robert signing, as they traded $1 million of it to the Rangers. Hopefully next season the organization will look to add some younger top talent to their DSL ranks in order to replenish what was a good but older team overall.