Jesus Guzman: Radar Alert's Jonathan Bianchet takes aim at Sixty-sixers infielder Jesus Guzman. Many, including several uniformed members of the organzation, had no idea who the Venezuelan even was prior to his debut in late April. I think everyone knows the 20-year-old by now. Check out the goods on Guzman.

In 1925, New York Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp complained of a headache before a game and was forced out of the lineup. Who was his replacement? A young rookie who had played in only 23 major league games stepped in for New York. Lou Gehrig filled in at first base and Pipp never played first base for the Yankees again.

In April of the 2004 season, Inland Empire infielder Ismael Castro's knee buckled while running out a groundball to first. He tore ligaments in his knee that required surgery that ended his third pro season. Who was Castro's replacement the next day? A 19-year old named Jesus Guzman, who had never played a professional game in the United States. It's pretty safe to say that Guzman was a name that never showed up on a top prospect list. But while that may sound shocking, not all of his teammates knew who he was before his call up earlier this year

"I didn't know him until I met him when he came up here," said infielder Juan Gonzalez," who is Guzman's roommate. "I knew him last year in instructional league in the early spring," said catcher and teammate Rene Rivera. "I also talked to him a couple of times in spring training, but that is it."

Three months later, Guzman now has scouts and teammates realizing that they should have known about him earlier.

Guzman, a native from Sucre, Venezuela who was signed as non-drafted free agent in 2000, made his U.S. debut at third base on April 27. Immediately making an impact, the infielder went 3-5 with a stolen base and a run scored.

The three hit game was only the beginning for Guzman.

Now 20-years-old, Guzman is batting .308 with 34 RBI, 54 runs scored and a team leading 23 doubles.

Though he doesn't hit for power, the soaring prospect has surprising plate coverage and has the ability to hit to all fields.

"His approach is very good," said hitting coach Henry Cotto. "He has a good idea of where the pitch is and where he would like to hit it."

With that pitch recognition, Guzman also has developed a remarkable sense of the strike zone and continually reaches base. His 42 walks are the most on the team after the promotion of TJ Bohn. Because of this, the Venezuelan is in the top five in on base percentage in the California League with a .409 mark.

Guzman, a six-foot, one-inch, 165 pound infielder who primarily plays the hot corner, may strikeout more than he would like with 62 but he learns from it and has proven to make the necessary adjustments.

"He is the type of hitter who will swing at a bad pitch in one at bat," said Cotto. "But he will take the same pitch for a ball in his next at bat."

By making these adjustments, Guzman has been able to stay away from an extended slump. Unlike his teammates, the 66ers starting third baseman is hitting .329 with 11 walks and 16 runs scored in a month where runs have been tough to come by for Inland Empire.

In all but one month this year, Guzman has hit over .325, showing the consistency that most 20-year olds don't have.

"For his fist year in the US and to be put at the High-A level plus doing well, is very good to see," said Sixers shortstop Juan Gonzalez, who made his US debut at the age of 19 at the rookie level.

Guzman has reached base safely in 63 of the 73 games he has played. In his 73 games played, the 20-year-old had a stretch in mid-May where he had a hit in 16 of 18 games, including a nine-game hitting streak. He has also has 23 multi-hit games, including seven three-hit games over the course of the season thus far. Thanks to streaks like these, Guzman has not seen his batting average drop under .290 for since May. Manager Daren Brown has taken notice and dropped Guzman and slid Guzman's bat down a spot in front of cleanup hitter Jon Nelson.

His teammates recognize the talent as well and Rivera echoes Gonzalez's thoughts on the subject.

"It is surprising that in his first year in the U.S. he comes to the High-A level, and is hitting good," said Rivera, who made his own US debut when he was an 18-year-old in the short-season A league in Everett. "It is amazing to see."

Is it amazing to see a player who never played in a game in the US play this well right away?

If you look a little closer to Guzman's career prior to 2004, you wouldn't be surprised in the least. Last year Guzman, in his third season in the Venezuelan League, hit .359 in 56 games and was named the team's Most Valuable Player by the Mariners organization.

All he needed was a chance to prove himself. He has now gotten that chance and there is no telling what might be in store for the inside-out swinging Guzman.

One thing we do know is that he won't be sneaking up on anyone from this point on.

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