Here’s a question I hear from fans semi-regularly: “Now that Alex Guerrero is healthy and playing again, shouldn’t the Dodgers bring him up rather than mess with the likes of Darwin Barney?” Actually, that’s not even the most regular Guerrero thing that pops up, because with Hanley Ramirez‘ injury, No. 1 is easily “Guerrero’s natural position is shortstop, the Dodgers are foolish for not giving him a shot there.”
Those are both defensible ideas, to a point, but here’s what the Dodgers should actually be doing with Guerrero: Nothing. Or, put another way, what they’re doing is exactly the right thing.
You see Guerrero’s .321/.363/.568 Albuquerque line and you think, even with the obvious ABQ bump, this is a guy with a bat that can play. Hopefully, that’s true. But also, know this: So much of that happened back in April and May. In the three weeks since he rejoined the Isotopes after missing two months to recover from Miguel Olivo‘s assault, he’s hit just .233/.273/.301. 19 games, 77 plate appearances, so yes, small sample size. It’s also not unreasonable to think that after so much missed time and the adjustment period to playing with an ear that was literally chewed off, he needs additional regular play to get back up to speed. Simply put, he’s not forcing the issue right now.
There’s also the defensive question, and despite the insistence of so many fans who have never seen him play that he’s the obvious choice to replace Ramirez at shortstop, that’s just not realistic. There’s a reason that almost no one thought he could play shortstop in the first place, and there’s plenty of question about whether he can even handle second. Here’s how his 19 games in his most recent stint in Albuquerque have broken down:
2B — 12 games
LF — 7 games
3B — 1 game
SS — 1 game
That adds up to more than 19 games because he’s played multiple positions in one games a few times, but you can see the trend. The team still wants him to be comfortable at second base, but the shocking emergence of Dee Gordon has put a roadblock into place that the position didn’t have when Guerrero was signed last year. He’s been playing a surprising amount of left field, less because the Dodgers really need another outfielder than — I’m guessing here — to add flexibility and see if he can handle it, because a 2B-only bench player has limited value. He’s barely played the left side of the infield at all. No matter what he did in Cuba, he’s clearly not seen as an option there.
Until he starts hitting again, he’s exactly where he ought to be. For the next three weeks, until the Triple-A season ends, he should be in Albuquerque trying to get his swing back and getting as much defensive time as he can. In September, he’ll almost certainly join the Dodgers, since he’s already on the 40-man roster, and he’ll be a potentially interesting bench option. Maybe there will even be an argument to have him on the playoff roster, though we’re a long way off from that. And in the offseason? Who knows, maybe he’s trade bait. Maybe Gordon is. Maybe he’s just going to make the 2015 bench a whole lot more interesting than the 2014 group has been. That’s a problem for the winter. Right now, Guerrero is exactly where he ought to be.