Every one of the guys listed in our "fighting for a spot" section have weaknesses that are keeping them where they are, be it inexperience, lack of velocity, lack of control, etc. For Angel Guzman, that weakness is a major one: Health. Signed over a decade ago at the age of 18, injuries have kept Guzman from realizing the potential that had him labeled as one of the future cornerstones of the franchise. Fast-forward to 2011, and Guzman is now 29, coming off season-ending shoulder surgery last March.
That surgery was particularly devastating to the Cubs last year, as Guzman was being counted on to be the Right-Handed set up man to Carlos Marmol, a role that the Cubs struggled to fill all season with Guzman unable to pitch. For Guzman, it was just another setback. In 2009, Guzman had a 2.95 ERA with a WHIP of 1.05. Because he was gone last year, it's easy to forget just how good Guzman was in 2009. Can he get anywhere near that again?
If he does, it likely won't be by Opening Day. According to early reports out of Mesa, Guzman is only throwing at about 60% off the mound, and is being limited to fastballs and changeups. He should soon be throwing his cutter, but only off of flat ground - with the long-term goal to have Guzman facing batters full steam by Mid-March. To me at least, that doesn't sound like someone who will be ready by Opening Day.
It's tough to know truly what to expect out of Mr. Guzman. In the offseason, he was removed from the 40-man roster and re-signed with the Cubs on a minor league deal. Therefore, I'm assuming the Cubs have some sort of option to send him to Iowa to start the season. Often veterans who sign minor league deals have some sort of out clause that allows them to become a Free Agent if they're not on the big league roster by X date, and that might apply to Guzman, but I'm not sure. With a 7-man pen thats going to feature Marmol, Wood, Marshall, Grabow, and Silva/Cashner, there's only 2 spots up for grabs. I believe Guzman will be sent to Iowa, and if he shows he has anything left in that right arm of his, we could see him back in Chicago at some point in 2011.
What does everyone else think? Over/Under 20 innings for the big league team this year for Guzman?