The danger of a great start is the expectations that come with it.
5’11”, 170 second baseman Hector Guevara was a little-known Venezuelan signing- until his first professional season. Guevara made his pro debut at age 17 in 2009 in the Rays’ Venezuelan League franchise, and needless to say, it went well. He posted a .330/.374/.534 line with 14 doubles, 2 triples, 8 homers, 36 RBI, and 6 stolen bases in 11 tries in 54 games. He struck out just 21 times while walking 16 times. He also showed good reflexes and a good arm in 33 games at shortstop and 16 at second base. Rays fans following the minor league system got excited for Guevara’s state-side debut in 2010.
The Rays skipped Guevara over their lower Rookie-level team, the GCL Rays and started him at Princeton. The results were not what observers hoped for. He posted just a .251/.308/.363 with 313 doubles, 3 triples, just 2 homers, 26 RBI, and 9 stolen bases in 12 tries in 64 games. He struck out just 31 times, 12.5% of his plate appearances, but he walked just 15 times, 6.0% of his PA’s. Defensively, Guevara looked erratic at times at second base although his defensive tools remained firm. Guevara survived as an 18 year old in a league where the average age was 21, but his power disappeared.
The Rays decided to be be aggressive with Guevara in 2011 and promote him to the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods. At age 19, he was the Rays’ youngest player in full-season ball. But once again, Guevara’s season did not go as planned. He posted just a .248/.291/.372 line with 16 doubles, 2 triples, 3 homers, 29 RBI, and just 2 stolen bases in 6 tries in 69 games. He showed a touch more power, upping his ISO from .112 to .124, but he struck out more, 14.7% of his PA’s. Defensively, Guevara was more sure-handed, making just 6 errors in 64 games. Guevara’s season ended on July 23rd with a shoulder injury.
The Rays decided to start Guevara at High-A Charlotte in 2012 and he has played relatively well. In 19 games he has posted a .296/.316/.324 line with 2 doubles and 10 RBI, stealing 2 bases in 4 tries and he has struck out 9 times compared to just 3 walks. He hasn’t made an error in 15 games at second base. But his power simply has not come.
People got too excited about Guevara from his stats in the Venezuelan Summer League. One particular problem is that the VSL Rays as that they play in an extreme pitcher’s park, especially for right-handed hitters. And Guevara’s numbers weren’t that crazy in the VSL. Do you want crazy stats? Look at Oscar Hernandez’s ridiculous, record-breaking performance in the VSL this past season. Guevara was impressive, but his numbers were not as incredibly as they were on face value.
Guevara has some projection remaining at 5’11”, 170 and he does have power potential. He is athletic and has good if not great speed. And he’ll be just 21 in October. But the question for Guevara is whether he can ever put it all together. It’s tough enough for a player to succeed when we see constant flashes of his ability. It’s even harder when the ability doesn’t come out. Guevara still has the ability to be a good major league player. But don’t keep hanging your hat on that one great season. At this point, assume nothing from Guevara and maybe, just maybe, he’ll actually break through.