Can the Dodgers bank on Alexander Guerrero?


An air of mystery still surrounds the man who might be the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting second baseman next season.

The Dodgers are contributing to that by keeping a tight lid on information about Alexander Guerrero, perhaps in an effort to tamp down the hype, perhaps because they’re hesitant to divulge the remainder of their off-season plans to other teams?

I asked their international scouting director, Bob Engle, for a scouting report and was referred to general manager Ned Colletti. I asked the Dodgers media relations staff if they could help me get in touch with special assistant Jose Vizcaino, who recently worked with Guerrero in the Dominican Republic, and was told the team would prefer I not interview Vizcaino about Guerrero.

So, for now, all we’re left with is this comment from Colletti: “Hard worker, wants to be great, learning second base, good shortstop.”

The Dodgers were hoping to get a head start on determining if Guerrero was ready to play every day this winter, but Guerrero injured his hamstring playing for Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican winter league. According to the team’s roster, Guerrero is out again, listed as day-to-day. He hasn’t played since Dec. 12.

He has played exclusively second base and, in 12 games, is batting .289 with three doubles, a home run, two walks, seven strikeouts and an error. Again, not a lot to go on.

The Dodgers might not know if he’s an option for Opening Day until spring training, but if they wait until then, they might not have proper coverage if he isn’t. Right now, there is no one listed under Guerrero on the team’s official depth chart. Dee Gordon has played there a bit, but he hardly seems like an everyday option. Mark Ellis has agreed to join the St. Louis Cardinals, so that ship has sailed. Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker are both long gone.

It seems likely the Dodgers are looking for some veteran middle-infield depth. Alexi Casilla, Chris Getz, Elliot Johnson, Robert Andino, Cesar Izturis and Paul Janish all remain unsigned.

But the Dodgers wouldn’t have signed Guerrero to a $28 million, four-year contract if they thought he was a long-term project. Obviously, they hit on their previous signing out of Cuba. Maybe you've heard of Yasiel Puig? But that signing was under Logan White, who no longer oversees the Dodgers' international scouting.

Playing in Cuba’s top league, Serie Nacional, Guerrero batted .290 with a .402 on-base percentage, .576 slugging percentage and 21 home runs in his final season. He had more walks (39) than strikeouts (30).

Baseball America’s Ben Badler offered this scouting report shortly after Guerrero defected and was trying out for teams in the Dominican:

“Guerrero's best tool is his right-handed power ... Guerrero takes an uppercut stroke and he loses his balance against breaking pitches. It's a pull-oriented, swing-for-the-fences approach that scouts think he will have to change to hit quality pitching.

Since arriving in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero has shown improved speed with above-average times in the 60-yard dash, which is highly unusual for a 26-year-old to start running faster ... [Some] scouts think he can stay in the middle of the infield, although shortstop is probably out of the question. His hands and actions are playable but he doesn't have the first-step quickness or range to play shortstop and he can be a bit stiff in the field. Second base could be an option for him and a team that likes him a lot will probably play him there.”

Given that signing Guerrero has been the Dodgers' most-expensive off-season move so far, it's clear that they liked his skill set.Now that Juan Uribe has agreed to a new two-year contract, it's clear that Guerrero's opportunity will come at second base. The rest of it, for the next two months, remains decidedly unclear.