Around this time last year, the Yankees were trying to figure out their future. The sensation that was Gary Sanchez took baseball by storm and took Brian McCann’s job as the Yankees’ starting catcher. For a while, it seemed like the Yankees might keep McCann and use him as the primary DH and backup catcher, but McCann ultimately decided he wasn’t done catching.
It was then that the Yankees and Astros agreed to a trade that sent McCann to Houston in exchange for two pitching prospects in Albert Abreu and Jorge Guzman. Abreu was easily considered the prize of the trade and after a successful 2017 season, he’s the Yankees’ seventh-best prospect, per MLB Pipeline. Two spots behind him, though, is Guzman.
Guzman’s bread and butter is his fastball, which he “consistently” throws over 100 mph. He’ll be the first one to tell you the hardest he’s thrown is 105 mph (I think the banner is being made as we speak), but he knows he can’t rely on one pitch alone and worked on developing his breaking ball and changeup this year.
“I don’t want to rely on one pitch,” the youngster out of Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic said. “If I throw the same thing too many times in a row, that’s not pitching, it’s just throwing. Every time I go out there, I want to utilize all of my pitches – I want to pitch.”
In addition to developing his secondary pitches, the Yankees noticed an issue with his mechanics—specifically inconsistencies in his delivery—and worked on that as well.
So far, his strategy seems to be working. He was assigned to Short-Season A ball and made his Yankee organization debut with the Staten Island Yankees. In 13 starts for Staten Island, Guzman pitched to a 2.30 ERA over 66.2 innings pitched with 88 strikeouts compared to only 18 walks.
Guzman credits Staten Island pitching coach Travis Phelps for a lot of his success this season. Guzman said that he and Phelps noticed that he opens his “body up too much” and the two of them have been focusing on helping him stay centered and driving through home plate.
Guzman is only 21 years old, turning 22 in January, but has shown great maturity in the way he pitches and adapts. Most pitching prospects can plow through the minors if they have a plus fastball (or plus-plus in Guzman’s case), but major league hitters can hit fastballs if that’s all they’re seeing. That’s why secondary pitches become so important.
For Guzman to recognize that he needs to successfully utilize his secondary pitches and for him to actually work on that shows that he’s focused on becoming a complete pitcher and not just a thrower.
After spending the first two seasons of his professional career in rookie ball, Guzman seamlessly made the jump up to the next level this past year and will look to build on that success in 2018. If you’re tired of reading about his ability and want to see what the future may hold, check out this video below:
*Season statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.