Angel Guzman's Story

Posted by Lionel on July 8, 2009.

Name the only top prospect (according to BA) in the last 7 years to be in a Cubs uniform today.
Yes, it's an easy answer since Angel Guzman's name and photo are above, but it's also a pretty remarkable story and one I think often gets overlooked.
Guzman originally signed with the Kansas City Royals in 1999 before having his contract voided and later signing with the Cubs. Guzman made his professional debut with the Cubs Rookie club in Venezuela as an 18 year old, making 7 appearances with a 1.93 ERA. Guzman made his stateside debut as a 19 year old with Boise in 2001. He went 9-1 in 14 starts with a 2.23 ERA, leading the league in victories and being named an All Star. In '02, he played in his first full season of professional baseball. He pitched 156 innings between A and Advanced A ball, going 11-4 with a 2.19 ERA.
It's notable that he pitched 150+ innings as a 20 year old because of the way things would go after that. After being a major league spring training invitee, he opened '03 at AA, where he went 3-3 with a 2.81 ERA in 15 starts (89 2/3 innings). He was selected to the Futures Game. But, he felt shoulder discomfort after a start in late June and Dr. James Andrews performed labrum surgery on him on July 8. Despite the surgery, the Cubs added Guzman to the 40 man roster at the year's end.
Guzman got started late in 2004 following surgery, making his first appearance mid-May. The Cubs started him in Advanced A ball while he rehabbed his shoulder. After a 3-1, 4.70 ERA performance, he was promoted to AA. After 4 starts in which he went 0-3 with a 5+ ERA, he went to the D.L. with shoulder tendonitis. He would remain on the D.L. for the rest of the year.
In 2005, Guzman went to EST (extended spring training) and remained there until August 10, when he returned to the mound in a rookie league game. He would only pitch in 6 contests that year between Rookie ball and Class A. He would get some additional work in in the Arizona Fall League.
Despite having missed the better part of the last two seasons, Guzman broke camp with Dusty Baker's Cubs in 2006. After 4 starts, he'd head to Iowa for the first time with a MLB ERA of 7.00. He'd bounce between Chicago and Iowa for the rest of the season, ending up with a 0-6 record and 7.39 ERA in the Bigs and a 4-4 record with a 4.04 ERA at Iowa.
In '07, he broke camp with the big club again as a reliever. But with Wade Miller struggling, the Cubs sent Guzman down to get in some more innings and prep him to start. He was back as a starter in May, until cramping issues sent him to the 'pen. At that time, Ryan Dempster was supposed to prepare Guzman to be the team's closer of the future. But two weeks after going to the 'pen, Guzman headed to the D.L. with a strained elbow. It was supposed to be a mild sprain, but after throwing a couple of relief appearances in rookie ball in July, Guzman was shut down again and underwent reconstructive elbow surgery late in the year.
His '08 campaign began in August after rehabbing from surgery. It also began in Daytona. He would climb up the rehab ladder to AA and AAA before being called up in September last year.
This year, on April 19, he earned his first career victory in his 21st major league appearance. He went to the D.L. in late June with a triceps strain and recently returned after rehabbing in Peoria (A Ball) and Iowa (AAA).
Since joining the Cubs in 2000, Guzman has undergone 2 major surgeries and has only had 2 full seasons of injury-free baseball. He has spent at least a portion of every season in the minors, albeit sometimes in rehab roles. After skipping Iowa on his way to the Bigs, he was sent there after his first MLB stint and has been there every year since (4 years in total). He threw more innings in his first three years stateside (2000-02) then in the 6+ years since.
Even with all that adversity, he's now the team leader in ERA (among those with more than 10 innings pitched).

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