D-backs Prospect Profile: SP Juan Gutierrez

Juan Gutierrez was one of the key pieces in the four-player trade that sent Jose Valverde to the Astros this time last year. Unfortunately, Gutierrez' first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization was about as successful as Chris Burke's was.


Name: Juan Gutierrez
Born: Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
Position: Right Handed Pitcher
DOB: 7/14/1983
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 210 lbs
B/T: R/R

History: Juan Gutierrez ranked as the 9th-best player in the weak Houston Astros organization in the 2007 Scout.com Baseball Prospects Guide.  After the D-backs system was gutted in the Dan Haren deal, Gutierrez still only ranked 20th among Arizona prospects.  After a disastrous 2008 campaign in Triple-A Tucson, Gutierrez may not even crack this winter's top 50. 

03 Mrtnsville 1 2 4.76 16 3 34.0 42 22 18 2 13 30 1.62
04 Greenvlle 8 2 3.70 13 13 65.2 74 31 27 4 30 59 1.58
05 Lexington 9 5 3.21 22 21 120.2 106 55 43 10 43 100 1.23
  Salem 1 1 3.00 3 2 12.0 10 4 4 1 8 9 1.50
06 Corpus C 8 4 3.04 20 20 103.2 94 39 35 10 34 106 1.23
07 R Rock 5 10 4.15 26 25 156.0 154 84 72 17 63 108 1.39
  Houston 1 1 5.91 7 3 21.1 25 14 14 3 6 16 1.45
08 Tucson 5 11 6.09 25 22 116.2 152 94 79 11 44 87 1.68
Majors 1 1 5.91 7 3 21.1 25 14 14 3 6 16 1.45
Minors 37 35 4.11 125 106 608.2 632 329 278 55 235 499 1.43

Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube

Gutierrez has generally been the type of pitcher whose stuff and makeup have exceeded his performance.  The primary exception was his season with the Corpus Christi Hooks, Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, when he averaged more than one strikeout per inning.  Since then, Gutierrez struggled with both the Astros and Diamondbacks' Triple-A affiliates, getting hit much harder than he should given the stuff that he has.

This winter has provided some redemption for the native Venezuelan.  With Leones del Caracas, Gutierrez went 3-0 with a 2.04 ERA over his first eight starts.  He's fanned 34 and walked 12, a near 3:1 ratio as compared to his career mark of just over 2:1.  Most of the hitters in he Venezuelan Winter League are younger and less experienced than Gutierrez is, but any signs of like are encouraging at this point.   

Makeup: Gutierrez has excellent physical makeup, but his mental makeup is questionable at best, as he will lose focus during his starts.

"He has the arm to be a major league starter," said Diamondbacks director of player personnel Jerry Dipoto shortly after Gutierrez was acquired.  "He has ability.  He has size."

Indeed, Gutierrez has proven quite healthy and durable throughout his career despite how hard he throws.  He is tall and solidly built.  This durability combines with a four-pitch repertoire to make the Diamondbacks envision Gutierrez as a starter, despite his inconsistencies from inning to inning. 

Pitches:  Fastball, Slider, Curveball, and Changeup

Gutierrez' low-90s fastball exhibits excellent life, sometimes vertically, sometimes horizontally.  It can reach 95 MPH at times, but generally works more effectively around 92.  Gutierrez will often try to overpower hitters by pitching it up in the zone, when he could be using the downward action on his fastball to induce more grounders.  He will also lose command of his fastball now and then, making his target zone nearly irrelevant on those occasions.

Gutierrez' most recent addition to his repertoire is the changeup, but it is now a better offering than either of his breaking pitches.  He uses it with a deceptive arm action and gets some sink on it.  Usually.  Like his curve and slider, Gutierrez will often lose command and sharpness in his secondary pitches.

"The next step in the exercise is to learn to become more consistent with his secondary pitches," said Dipoto.  "Depending on when you see him, any one of them is a plus pitch."  

Major League Clone: Manny Parra

Prediction: Time is running out on this 25-year old.  The Diamondbacks would do well to convert Gutierrez to a reliever and have him concentrate on just three pitches.  In his brief major league stint in 2007, Gutierrez allowed just one run and two hits in 5.1 relief innings while surrendering 23 hits and 13 runs in 16 innings as a starter.  He simply loses concentration during longer outings and has too much to fix both mentally and mechanically in too short of a time. 

ETA: Gutierrez was expected to contribute in 2008.  Although he's slipped on the rung of pitching prospects, he's still on the 40-man roster, which means that he could aid the big league bullpen later this summer after a handful of impressive starts in Reno.  If he doesn't impress this year, the Diamondbacks will likely drop him from the 40-man roster, making him available to another team that falls in love with his stuff and ignores the rest.       


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