If you like your baseball careers unpredictable, than you will love Jose Guillen. The Pirates made him a full-time starter at the age of 21 and he looked overmatched. And then he regressed. After several years of irrelevance, Guillen bounced back with one of the most improbable years ever in 2003 when he put up an OPS+ of 142. Since then he’s posted three fairly productive seasons, one injury-marred campaign and last year’s mediocre effort.
In 2008, Guillen had three months where he batted .308 or better and three months where he hit .212 or worse. He had a 42-game stretch where he batted .176/.234/.294 but then rebounded to post an .865 OPS in his final 108 plate appearances.
The one thing that has remained constant throughout his career is Guillen’s refusal to take many walks. Last year his BB% was a dismal 3.7 percent, which amazingly only tied him for the seventh-lowest mark in the majors. It was the lowest rate in his career since his age 22 season in 1998. Not surprisingly, Guillen ranked sixth in MLB in F-Strike% (63.8%) and 24th in O-Swing % (31.6%).
But despite all those flaws, Guillen is still someone to keep tabs on during your draft. Even with last year’s disappointing numbers, he still put up 20 home runs and 97 RBIs. In his last five full seasons, Guillen has averaged 25 home runs and 92 RBIs. Those numbers alone make him a bottom-of-your-roster type guy.
The key for Guillen is his batting average. Last year his fantasy value was dragged down by his .264 average. But in 2007 he hit .290 and when you recall that he rarely walks, that becomes an AB-heavy .290, which helped make him a $20 player.
The perception is that Guillen is old and that he’s a malcontent. But while he’s been around forever, next year will be his age 33 season. And while he has worn out his welcome in several cities, managers will keep writing him in the lineup as long as he’s productive.
Guillen is an ideal late round pick. If his average rebounds (last year he had a 38-point BABIP drop) he is a plus player in three categories and an easy guy to ride during one of his frequent hot streaks. And if it doesn’t, he becomes an easy guy to cut when the 2009 Cliff Lee presents himself.
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