Saturday, March 27, 2010

Prospect #8 Carlos Gutierrez

Starting and Reliever RHP
Drafted 2008, 1st round (27th overall), University of Miami
Levels Played in 2009: A+ Fort Myers and AA New Britain
Opening Day Age: 23

Carlos Gutierrez was the second of 2 first round picks for the Twins in 2008 (Aaron Hicks). At the University of Miami he was a closer after Tommy John surgery ended his bid as a starter Freshman Year. The Twins selected Gutierrez not only for his sign-ability but for also his incredible ground ball rate. After signing Gutierrez was quickly sent to Fort Myers to work out of the bullpen and did quite well. In 26 innings pitched he had a 2.10 ERA.

Gutierrez began the 2009 season as a member of team Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic. He worked 1 scoreless inning of relief before reporting to the Twins for spring training. As the season began the Twins decided to move forward with their project and converting the tall righty back to being a starter. The Twins felt that his big body and plus sinker would be good enough to for a starters role (ex. Nick Blackburn). The season started out great for Gutierrez as he over powered hitters with his fastball sinker combination. He maintained a ground ball rate over 70% the entire year. In 55 innings pitched he had a .192 BAA, 1.32 ERA and only 1 home run given up. At the midway point of the season Baseball America ranked him as the 14th best prospect to come out of the 2008 draft. If their were 2 things to complain about it was his walk total. His sinker had so much movement that he walked 22 batters compared to 33 strikeouts in those 55 innings. The other stat to recogonize was that although he had a low ERA Gutierrez gave up a lot of unearned runs. 20 runs given up. Only 8 were earned.

Either way Gutierrez was still having a great year and did earn his promotion to AA New Britain. In a career filled with short outings, fatigue began to catch up to Carlos. He started to get knocked around, and was not able to locate his fastball. In AA he finished with a 6.19 ERA and gave up 6 home runs in 52 innings. Towards the end of the season the Twins recognized the fatigue and moved him back to the bullpen. In total Gutierrez pitched 107 innings with a very respectable 3.70 ERA. Low points were his low K numbers 65 and his high walk total 46.

Moving forward the Twins still have options with Gutierrez. It still seems likely that Minnesota will continue with the experiment of moving him to a starter. If he does not show stamina at the end of the year the Twins may just entertain the idea of making his the closer of the future. It is not that Gutierrez does not have stuff because he does. Gutierrez works with a power fastball in the 92 to 94 MPH range in addition to his power sinker. Baseball America says he has the best fastball in the system. As a reliever he could be able to gain more velocity. When Joe Mauer began his rehab stint in Fort Myers last year he mentioned that Gutierrez had the best sinker he has ever caught. At 6 foot 3 and 205 pounds he has the body to be either a starter or reliever. He will start the 2010 season in the AA rotation but may be kept on a short leash and moved back to the bullpen if their are struggles. Either way Gutierrez has a bright future ahead of him.

ETA: 2011
Projection: Either back of rotation starter with worm killing ground ball rates. Or the Twins closer of the future.
MLB Comparison: Fausto Carmona pre-location issues. Derrick Lowe, Chien-Meng Wang.

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