As with most Cuban imports, there is a lot that we don’t know about Alexander Guerrero. With the unknown comes additional risk – which of course provides risk takers with the opportunity to make a ton on their investment. There’s no clearer example of this than those who were willing to go all-in on Dodgers’ outfield sensation Yasiel Puig. As much of a mystery as Puig was, he did have 23 games of minor league experience under his belt entering the 2012-13 offseason, giving prospective fantasy owners at least something tangible to base their dreams off of. There’s even less information out there on Guerrero, though to his benefit there is probably less misinformation too. Reports on Puig’s conditioning and attitude colored people’s opinions and while he certainly does have an attitude, it wasn’t the type to impede him from developing into a real-life and fantasy stud.
In Guerrero’s case, he was more accessible to industry scouts, defecting during the baseball season and putting on showcases in the Dominican, with the added benefit that teams were not under the gun to sign him before an MLB-imposed deadline, as they were with Puig. The little that we do know of his performance has been very good (.429/.429/.714 slash line in 14 at-bats), if not limited. He’s played in the Dominican Winter League but recently suffered a wrist injury that has curtailed his play. While doctors have given Guerrero the go-ahead to get back on the field, the Dodgers have insisted that their new investment be 100% before playing again. The reports on Guerrero haven’t been as glowing as one might hope, but that again opens the door for value to be had, if the early reports are misleading. While the reports weren’t wrong on Puig, people were slow to adjust their valuations when he showed up to camp in 2013, having dropped the extra weight he had accrued in Mexico. Unfortunately for Guerrero, the doubts don’t seem to be as simple as being overweight, as the flaws identified in the player seem to be more mechanics/tools based.
While Guerrero was a shortstop in Cuba, he’s slated for keystone duties in LA, with Dodgers management expecting him to contribute as soon as the 2014 season. As long as he’s part of the middle infield, fantasy owners won’t care much where he does his damage. The question remains, how much damage that will be. Guerrero’s carrying tool is power from the middle infield, but scouts are questioning whether MLB quality pitching will expose holes in his uppercut swing that Cuban pitching wasn’t able to take advantage of. While he hit for average and power in Cuba, the consensus seems to be that he’s unlikely to replicate his success when it comes to batting average here in the states. Several teams that scouted Guerrero saw him as a fringe average big leaguer, or second division player at best.
There’s often a lot of value in second division players in fantasy because, while they lack the cache of a first division type, they get the same every day at-bats, providing a solid percentage of the production at the fraction of the cost. All of this is to say… who the hell knows, with Alexander Guerrero. The best reports we have aren’t promising, though there were those who thought Hyun-Jin Ryu was better off as a reliever. It’s fair to say that even the best in the reporting and scouting fields are playing a partial information game. They can be wrong, but in general they’re good at what they do. I’m trusting those sources that Guerrero has some mechanical flaws that need adjusting. At 26 years old, I don’t know how quickly he’ll be to adjust, and I remain cognizant that his prime is already happening, so I’m not getting quite the long-term asset that I am with Puig (or even Jorge Soler). Even if he starts Opening Day in the big leagues, it seems that Guerrero’s upside is something more in line with what Jedd Gyorko produced in 2013 and that’s at the upper end of the spectrum. The reality is that it’s likely he’s less than that, and significantly so. As a Dodgers fan, I’d be thrilled with something in the Neil Walker range, and even then I feel greedy.
We all saw what underestimating an import can lead to with Puig, and those who took the risk are reaping the rewards right now. As upside-heavy and risk-happy as I am though, in this situation, with this particular player, it seems to be the smart play to let someone else take that risk, and if he’s legit – pay more for him later on.