- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
One has to wonder what else Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Alex Guerrero has to do, other than show he’s a capable defender of course, to earn a chance at a regular starting role at this point. Guerrero got a rare start Thursday at third base and homered. The day before he delivered all the team’s runs with a two-run blast off San Francisco Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner. In fact, Guerrero, who is 9-for-19 this young season with four home runs and 12 RBIs, knocked in four of the six Dodgers runs in the series, though the Giants won all three contests. Starting third baseman Juan Uribe is a superior defender, but the Dodgers are having issues scoring runs, so one would think Guerrero could help solve that. Well, everyone except Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, that is.
By Thursday night, the Twitter hashtag #freeAlexGuerrero was popping up frequently on my timeline, and for good reason, but it also needs to be pointed out that Guerrero would probably disappoint if he became a regular player, at least compared to expectations based on this small sample size. That shouldn’t stop us from adding a slugger with second-base eligibility to our fantasy rosters, in case he’s awesome, but Guerrero doesn’t really project to be a .300 hitter or monster power option, and it’s worth noting he’s not a good defender anywhere. He’s not Kris Bryant, after all. Guerrero is 28 and, by the way, everyone hits at Triple-A Albuquerque, and we still don’t know enough to translate Cuban numbers accurately. Not many people are arguing to #freeYasmanyTomas or #freeDayanViciedo anymore. As of Friday morning, Guerrero is owned in 11 percent of ESPN standard leagues.
Ultimately, if Guerrero got 400 at-bats, I think he’d deliver more than 20 home runs and hit around .280, which is obviously valuable in any format, and it would compare favorably to the likes of St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker among middle infielders, as they provide something similar. Guerrero remains the great unknown, and since he hasn’t failed yet, and he’s Cuban, people think he’s Jose Abreu or Yasiel Puig. That’s patently unfair. I’d certainly try to find room on my bench for Guerrero today in case he plays and keeps hitting, because there could be a top-10 second baseman or third baseman lurking here, but I really don’t expect a sudden change in the situation.
Not that anyone wants to hear this, but Uribe did, after all, hit .311 last season and has 21 home runs during the past two years, while providing excellent defense and a wins above replacement (WAR) value of 4.2 and 4.0. Mattingly doesn’t care about WAR, but at least let’s understand the argument that it’s a tad premature to simply punt the capable Uribe to the side. I’d give Guerrero a chance in left field, personally, where the brittle Carl Crawford is having trouble, among other things, with his hitting, fielding, running and plate discipline. Other than that, he’s great. Guerrero would be an upgrade there, too.
Bottom line, Guerrero should get a chance to play more, but when Mattingly was pressed by reporters Thursday, including ESPNLosAngeles.com reporter Mark Saxon, the manager talked up Justin Turner as more deserving of at-bats. This situation seems clear, at least today, and it’s hard to see how Guerrero will become the regular third baseman anytime soon, folks. He has a unique clause in his contract that keeps him from being sent to the minors -- he has to agree to it -- or traded, because he would then be eligible to opt out of his deal this winter. But Mattingly seems resolute in how he views Guerrero. I’d like to see him get a chance at regular playing time because we all could use another hitter on our rosters, but I also think expectations have become a bit unrealistic, for pure numbers and in reading whatever's in Mattingly’s mind.
NL report: Cincinnati Reds outfielder Marlon Byrd finally did something positive for his new team, cracking a two-run home run Thursday. Byrd will obviously improve on his .127 batting average -- he should double it, at least -- and should hit 20 more homers, so while it might be painful to click and add him, in a league deeper than 10 teams, go for it. In the past two weeks, he didn’t forget how to hit as he did in 2014. … Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran continues to struggle with control, which is odd because it hasn’t been a problem in the past. Teheran walked five Mets and didn’t make it through five innings. I’d still buy low, if possible, and in the back of my mind I am wondering if there’s something mechanically off. I saw Teheran lit up several times in March, too. … Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun stole his first base of the season and has a couple multihit games this week. He still has only one extra-base hit, though, and he can’t be a top-10 outfielder unless that changes. … Colorado Rockies outfielder Corey Dickerson, despite a recent diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, doesn’t seem to be struggling much at all. His homer Thursday gave him three in the past two games. We’ll see if he can hit away from Coors Field and remain consistent and healthy, but this is a potential 30-homer guy.
AL report: Say whatever you want about Kansas City Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura and his early-season antics, including his role in Thursday night’s benches-clearing incident against the Chicago White Sox, but I’m avoiding this guy because his durability concerns me -- and by the way, of his four outings so far, two ended early with ejections, the other two with injuries. That’s a full April. There’s risk here. … Toronto Blue Jays catcher Dioner Navarro was placed on the DL with a hamstring injury, which isn’t a big deal since he’s not particularly valuable, but he was taking more than a third of the team’s designated hitter at-bats, which creates opportunity for Justin Smoak and Danny Valencia, among others. There’s some AL-only value there. Valencia played left field against a right-handed pitcher Thursday. … Blue Jays right-hander Drew Hutchison has immense upside, and showed it against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday, but he has to become consistent from outing to outing. … Oakland Athletics right-hander Jesse Chavez permitted only one hit in six frames in his spot start Thursday, but he lost anyway. If rookie Kendall Graveman doesn’t get going, though, Chavez will stick in the rotation.
Closer report: A day after lefty Tony Watson earned a nonconventional, two-inning save, Mark Melancon returned to the ninth inning for the Pittsburgh Pirates, still with reduced velocity based on 2014, and retired all three Chicago Cubs in order. Melancon remains a risk, however, so if you added Watson, keep him a bit longer. … Colorado Rockies right-hander John Axford recorded a save Thursday, his second of the year. Adam Ottavino shouldn’t have been tired from throwing 12 pitches Wednesday and didn’t pitch Tuesday, so this is an odd one and perhaps indicates a future time-share. … Who would have guessed that New York Mets right-hander Jeurys Familia would have eight saves already, as many as the Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox combined? Familia looks awesome, and those who invested in Bobby Parnell might need to move on.
Eric Karabell analyzes Dodgers slugger Alex Guerrero and offers realistic expectations