Kelvin Gutierrez was acquired by the Royals along with Blake Perkins and Yohanse Morel in the Kelvin Herrera trade with the Washington Nationals and upon the trade quickly became one of the Royals top prospects listed by MLB Pipeline as the 17th overall prospect in the Royals system. At the time of the trade, many were calling it a typical GM Dayton Moore trade valuing tools and scouting over other metrics:
Gutierrez originally signed with the Washington Nationals out of the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in April of 2013. Gutierrez is listed 26th overall in the Royals Farm Report top 100 prospect rankings.
Gutierrez is an immensely talented athlete with a very high ceiling because of his many physically gifted tools. However, he is also one of the more enigmatic prospects in the Royals system. His quick feet, strong arm, well-above average defensive range, together with quick bat speed, above average raw power, and above average speed are the type of tools that convince many that at 6’3” 215 Gutierrez has the physical tools of a major league third baseman. At the same time, inconsistent play at third base and underwhelming offensive production to date have some projecting Gutierrez as just a FV40 player on the 20 to 80 scouting scale, which is a below average major league player.
Is Kelvin Gutierrez a future major league regular on a championship caliber team or are his limitations significant enough to prevent him from being anything more than a role player at the big league level? Let’s take a look and see what Kelvin Gutierrez needs to do to realize his immense potential.
To grasp exactly how talented Kelvin Gutierrez is, let’s take a quick dive into the August 5th, 2018 game against the Springfield Cardinals. You can see Gutierrez has immense power in this long home run to left.
Gutierrez has strong wrists with the ability to go the other way in this game winning single.
The two hits highlighted above exemplify why some, including me, believe that Kelvin Gutierrez has the offensive tools to succeed. In the second video, especially, you can see Gutierrez has a quick bat, strong wrists and an all-fields approach that allows him to take a high velocity pitch the other way for a game winning hit. But is this intrigue enough?
Current Offensive Limitations
Now that I have you intrigued, let’s expound upon some of Gutierrez’s offensive limitations.
Since starting his professional career, Kelvin Gutierrez is a ground ball machine.
As you can see above, Gutierrez has a difficult time hitting fly balls. Since his trade to the Royals, Gutierrez is hitting a ground ball over 50% of the time and his ability to hit the ball in the air has dropped to 27.7% of the time.
Consistent Game Power
Gutierrez has above average raw power, the key will be converting his raw power to above average in game power. So far, Gutierrez has not displayed consistent in-game power.
On Base Skills
You can also see above that Gutierrez’s BB% has dropped significantly to 3.4% with the Royals. This is admittedly a small sample size so be careful drawing too strong of a conclusion from this alone. From my in game views, when Gutierrez first came to the Royals he was passive at the plate and seemed willing to try and coax a walk. Recently, Gutierrez has been aggressive at the plate, looking to find a pitch to drive. While the sample size is small, there are indications, however, that the reduced walk rate may be the result from a change to a more aggressive offensive approach.
Eye Witness Report on Offense
I have seen Gutierrez in person at least five times and in many ways my eye witness reports on Gutierrez back up what you see in the statistical profile. I believe the high ground ball rate and lack of in-game power stem from two things, a busy swing load and inefficient swing path. The swing load appears to have two separate spirals (like a spiral staircase moving upward) with a lot of movement. However, I will note that this spiraling had smoothed quite a bit in my most recent in person review.
In addition to the busy swing load, Gutierrez’s swing path leads to a lot of topping of the ball which results in a lot of ground balls. I know it is a lot easier said than done, but Gutierrez will benefit immensely from a swing path that enables him to get on the same plane of the ball. This will allow his physical strength to play and give Gutierrez to dramatically improve his in-game power. I know this is easier said than done, but Gutierrez’s future success will depend on him making this change.
Kelvin Gutierrez began his professional career as a short stop which is abundantly evident in his game today. Gutierrez has a very strong arm, I dare say an almost 70 grade arm, with quick feet and defensive range to spare. Gutierrez has such fluid lateral movement and range to his left that I have seen him cut off the ball on routine short stop plays.
In many ways, Gutierrez represents the type of plus defender that GM Dayton Moore and his front office seek. The defensive tools are so loud that even if Gutierrez doesn’t reach his potential defensively he will be an average defensive third basemen in the big leagues.
If anything, like many young players, Gutierrez is still learning to corral his many defensive abilities. His errors are typically of the throwing variety from poor foot work, because at times Gutierrez will rush which leads to inconsistent foot work and arm release. With time, I believe Gutierrez will learn to maximize his defensive tools and become a consistent plus defender at third base.
Putting it All Together
Gutierrez isn’t currently the perfect ballplayer which is probably why the Nationals were willing to part with him in the Kelvin Herrera deal. However, his physical tools are loud and carry with them a very high ceiling. Gutierrez has at least 55 grade raw power, with the potential to hit 18-23 home runs in the big leagues. He also has an above average eye at the plate which currently doesn’t manifest in a lot of walks but helps his overall hit tool to have a FV of 55 as well. There are clearly hurdles that must be overcome, the biggest of these a change in swing path to hit more fly balls, but if Gutierrez can incorporate a line drive/fly ball swing path I believe his offensive profile improves such that he will be an above average major league hitter.
Defensively, Gutierrez has the tools to be a star. He has the best range and arm I have seen among third basemen in the Texas League this year and bluntly has the tools to provide immense defensive value at the major league level.
It is easy to look at the current deficiencies in Kelvin Gutierrez’s game and wonder if he will succeed at reaching his potential. I believe he will. Someday I anticipate we will see Gutierrez have a 15-20 homer season with 15-20 stolen bases with the defensive value to make him a 3+ win player.
One thing is clear, the Royals acquired an immensely talented player in the Kelvin Herrera trade one that I believe Royals fans will know well for quite a long time.