Yankees Prospect Profile: Starting Pitcher Jorge Guzman
Flamethrowing 20-year-old righty Jorge Guzman was one of two young pitchers to come over to the New York Yankees from the Houston Astros in exchange for veteran catcher Brian McCann.
While Albert Abreu is seen by evaluators as the big prize of the New York Yankees’ return for Brian McCann, they also received a young righty in Jorge Guzman who, Kyle Glaser of Baseball America recently wrote, “could challenge Mauricio Cabrera and Aroldis Chapman for the crown of hardest-throwing big league reliever” when he makes it to the show in a few years.
The 20-year-old righty had one of the most electric heaters in the minor leagues in 2016, throwing in the 101-103 mph range regularly, although Glaser notes that Guzman is actually more effective when he works in the high 90’s because his control becomes…exciting when he goes full tilt.
Guzman made his professional debut in 2015 after signing out of the Dominican Republic. He totaled 55.1 innings between the Dominican Summer League and the Gulf Coast League as a 19-year-old, pitching to a 5.04 ERA while walking more batters (11.2% of those he faced) than he struck out (10.8%).
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He returned to the GCL to begin the 2016 season and things went considerably better the second time around. Guzman still walked too many batters (14.7%) but saw a huge jump in his strikeout rate (36.8%). In 17.1 innings of work as both a starter and reliever, he put up a 3.12 ERA.
That strong performance earned him a mid-season promotion to the Appalachian League, where he kept striking out opposing batters at an impressive rate (29%) and cut down on his free passes (7%), but did prove hittable to the more advanced hitters of the Appy League (4.76 ERA and 1.412 WHIP in 22.2 IP).
Although he doesn’t have the advanced repertoire of Albert Abreu, Guzman does already have a power slider that could develop into a plus offering down the road. Like most pitchers his age, the changeup is a work in progress, but there is the potential for three quality pitches there if he’s given time to develop as a starter.
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The elite velocity, control issues, slim frame (listed at 6’2 185 lbs.) and two-pitch attack all point to Guzman converting exclusively to relief work in the not-too-distant future. For the moment, however, I’d like to see the Yankees give him a chance to stick in the rotation given his incredible upside if he can manage it.