I just saw a story on ESPN about Vlad Guerrero looking good in workouts with Texas Rangers. I remain in the camp of people who think his signing will likely be a success. The idea of him in a Ranger lineup for an entire year intrigues me, and, in fact, I think it will be a mutually beneficial arrangement.
When I think of the Rangers, I see a free-swinging club, the American League equivalent of the Colorado Rockies. The Rangers actually slumped in 2009 to a .260 team batting average, however, between Milton Bradley’s departure and the struggles of Josh Hamilton, who had a widely-publicized slip in sobriety prior to the season and battled injuries during it. One year prior, with Bradley and Hamilton both thriving in the Texas lineup, the team hit .283.
Enter the second coming of Juan Gonzalez.
The thought first flashed in my mind as I glanced at the ESPN story, and I confirmed it by looking at Gonzalez’s Baseball Reference page: For overall career, Guerrero is listed as the second-most similar batter to Gonzalez, after Albert Belle. In their primes, Guerrero and Gonzalez were each Triple Crown possibilities (as was Belle), good for upwards of 30 home runs, 120 runs batted in and a batting average in the neighborhood of .320. They were both batters who could anchor a lineup.
If Guerrero stays healthy — and that is still an if, admittedly, after two knee surgeries prior to the 2009 season — I see him hitting somewhere near or above his career batting average of .321. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits .330 with 25 home runs and 90 runs batted in. And short of heading to Colorado or Boston, I think Guerrero gets the maximum possibility for success here. That Ranger lineup is kind of like The Horse Whisperer for troubled hitters (with the exception of Andruw Jones, who needed to be put down.)
Of course, I’ve been wrong on these things before, but I feel more confident saying this than when I predicted the 49ers would win their division in 2004. They went 2-14 that year, I got made fun of.
By the way, I’m going to step aside from drawing any steroid parallels here. Granted, if my Twitter friend Jose Canseco is to be believed — and at this point, all signs point to yes, he should be believed — Gonzalez may have been chemically enhanced from the waning days of Bush I (and whatever happened to Gonzalez, by the way? Did he go in the Witness Protection program? We never hear from that guy anymore.) For our purposes, though, until it comes out that Guerrero flunked a test, I am strictly looking at a numerical comparison between the two players. And for our purposes, those numbers look good.