Discussing Brandon Guyer Yet Again

By Robbie Knopf

If you have read my writing here at RCG long enough, you have seen that a prospect that I’m absolutely enthralled by is Brandon Guyer. That made me especially cringe when I saw this article on DRaysBay about overrated prospects in the Rays system and I saw Guyer mentioned and referred to as a player who isn’t really a prospect and a backup outfielder type at best. This spring training, Guyer had an opportunity to make the Rays this spring training and failed. But he still has undeniable promise.

Brandon Guyer is an interesting prospect. The reason: his age. Guyer turned 26 in January and has a grand total of 15 major league games to his credit. But that’s not  because of a lack of talent. Guyer is a late bloomer. It took until his 4th season in the minor leagues for him to break out. And then this past season at the Rays’ Triple-A Durham affiliate, Guyer barely slipped, posting a .905 OPS, 14 home runs, and 16 steals in 107 games.

Guyer combines solid power, nice speed, and great defensive ability. An athletic 6’2″, 210, Guyer swings hard on every swing and even when he hits the ball weakly, always hustles down to first base and beats out plays with his speed. Guyer does not hit many line drives (just 15.0% of his batted balls at Triple-A in 2011 according to Minor League Central), and he will not be an elite hitter for average, but he has outstanding lift in his swing and even though he hits a lot of flyballs, he hits them hard. Guyer also is unafraid to bunt to take advantage of his speed, which makes things harder for opposing teams, and his speed is a big factor on the basepaths, where he’s a 25-30 stolen base threat. Offensively, Guyer could be a .275/.360/.480 type player with 34 doubles, 20 homers, and 30 steals. Who wouldn’t want that type of player in their lineup?

And then there’s Guyer’s defense. Guyer uses his speed extremely well to cover ground in the outfield, and he has a rocket for an arm that led to 17 outfield assists in the minors in 2011. Even in his brief major league time, we saw Guyer make some outstanding defensive plays. Check out this catch.

Guyer has an above-average arm even for a right fielder, but he has the speed to handle centerfield, and that’s where he’ll play back at Durham to begin 2012. There should not be any questions about Guyer’s defense.

Anyone who disagrees with me would try to bring a bunch of proofs that I’m out of my mind and completely overvaluing Guyer offensive ability. The first would be that he played undeniably horrifically in spring training, hitting just .160 with not a single extra-base hit. But as I noted in my spring training scouting series from my trip down to Port Charlotte, Guyer’s timing was off and when he gets his timing back, he should be fine. Another potential proof against me is how overmatched Guyer looked at times during his time in the big leagues, when he hit just .195 with 1 doubles, 2 homers, and 3 RBI, striking out 9 times in 43 plate appearances versus just 1 walk. But sample size is a big issue, and Guyer was dealing with injuries throughout 2011 that make his numbers at Triple-A even better than they seem.

I am not saying that the Rays should hand Guyer a starting outfield spot, whether this year or following B.J. Upton‘s inevitable departure following the season. But this year, the Rays need to ease him in. Discounting his age, he has the ability to help this ballclub, and not just off the bench. Brandon Guyer has the ability to be an impact major leaguer. Don’t let his age or struggles in small sample sizes overshadow that.