Rangers, Royals swap prospects

According to multiple reports, the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals made a rather unexpected prospect swap on Thursday afternoon. Lone Star Dugout takes an in-depth look at all three players involved in the trade.

According Greg Schaum of Kansas City's KCSP 610 AM, the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals made a rather unexpected prospect swap on Thursday afternoon.

The Rangers will receive pitching prospect Danny Gutierrez, while the Royals get outfielder Tim Smith and catcher Manny Pina.

The timing of the deal is unorthodox, but not extremely surprising given Gutierrez's rocky—but somewhat unclear—relationship with the Royals organization. Earlier this season, the club dealt top pitching prospect Dan Cortes after multiple behavioral issues, including an arrest for public intoxication.

While there have certainly been some issues in Gutierrez's past—and that is part of why he has logged just 27.1 innings this season—nobody appears to know the entire story, and there has been plenty of speculation this year. Because there is no official word, his off-the-field issues are not worthy of comment.

On the field, the 22-year-old Gutierrez was regarded as one of the Royals' top prospects. The hurler was a 33rd round pick of Kansas City in 2005, and he signed as a draft-and-follow out of Riverside Community College prior to the '06 draft.

Gutierrez gave up 74 hits in 49.1 innings with rookie-level Idaho in 2006, and then he posted a 4.88 earned-run average in seven starts for Single-A Burlington in 2007.

After the 2007 campaign, the right-hander attended Fall Instructional League, where his velocity spiked and he began to take off as a prospect.

"He really busted on to the scene during instructs in the fall of 2007," said Dave Sanford, publisher of RoyalsCorner.com. "That's when the organization really started getting excited about him."

Gutierrez returned to Burlington in 2008, and he logged 90 innings in 19 appearances [18 starts] with the Bees. The Los Angeles native began to flourish results-wise, as he had a 2.70 ERA while giving up just 80 hits, walking 25, and striking out 104.

According to Sanford's '08 postseason scouting report, Gutierrez "throws a fastball that sits at 91-93 mph and tops out in the mid-90s, and he maintains that velocity late into games. He also throws a hammer curveball with late break and a useful changeup that he hasn't had to throw very often in the low minors."

Royals Corner rated him the system's fifth-best prospect entering the 2009 season. That scouting report can be found at this link.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound prospect has just 27.1 innings with High-A Wilmington this season, but he has been on the active roster and pitching since July 28. There is much speculation as to why Gutierrez missed most of this season, and the only confirmed facts are that he had a minor injury around Spring Training followed by a disagreement with the organization.

Since returning to the mound, Gutierrez has been dominant for the Blue Rocks, surrendering only five runs [all in one game] in 27.1 innings, leading to a 1.65 ERA. He's allowed just 17 hits while walking seven and fanning 25.

For now, Gutierrez profiles best as a starting pitcher with mid-rotation potential, although there has been some talk of eventually moving him into the bullpen.

Smith is a .305 career hitter in the minors.
Smith, 23, has broken out as one of the Rangers' top outfield prospects this summer. Always known as a promising pure hitter in the past, Smith batted .321 between High-A Bakersfield, Double-A Frisco, and three rehab games in Arizona this season. He missed most of the second half after suffering a rib injury, but Smith has recovered and he is currently playing for Team Canada in the Baseball World Cup.

The Toronto native's Double-A numbers took a hit after he tried to play through the rib ailment, but he still batted .309 with nine doubles, three home runs, and 32 RBI's in 36 games.

A left-handed hitter and left-handed thrower, Smith is likely relegated to left field because of his below-average arm strength, but he is athletic and covers enough ground to get by.

On the whole, Smith's game is somewhat comparable to Rangers left fielders Rusty Greer and David Murphy. He has a plus hit tool and should hit for a solid average regardless of what level he is at. Additionally, Smith has more raw power than he has shown in games thus far. He could feasibly hit between 15 to 20 home runs in a Major League season, but he projects as more of a gap-to-gap guy.

At 6-foot-3, 225-pounds, Smith has a big frame, but he is surprisingly quick, showing slightly above-average speed. The Arizona State product is also an intelligent baserunner who knows how to pick his spots. After swiping 21 bags at Single-A Clinton in 2008, he had 17 steals in 19 tries in just 74 games this season.

Pina has a plus arm.
The 22-year-old Pina will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after this season, and it was beginning to look like the Rangers weren't planning on protecting him.

Pina profiles as big-league backup catcher, but he has some promising tools, including a plus arm. The backstop gunned down 40% of potential basestealers with Frisco last year, and he is nailing them at a 31.8% clip [35-of-110] this season.

While Pina's game has made significant strides in the last two seasons, he still must improve his game-calling skills. The native of Venezuela has practically mastered the English language in recent years, allowing him to effectively communicate with every member of his pitching staff, regardless of native language.

The primary concern regarding Pina's game has always been his bat, and though he still doesn't profile as much of a hitter, he is developing a bit. In 86 games with Single-A Clinton in 2007, Pina batted just .228 with 14 extra-base hits in 281 at-bats.

Pina has outstanding hand-eye coordination, allowing him to put the bat on the ball with regularity, but he still must improve his plate discipline. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound prospect often swings at pitches that he cannot barrel up—pitches that he would be best served taking. Still, his discipline has improved slightly since reaching the Texas League last summer.

When Pina does make solid contact, the ball can jump off his bat. He is beginning to show some raw power, as evidenced by his 17 doubles and eight home runs with the RoughRiders. He made waves early in the season by batting .481 in 13 April contests.

However, Pina scuffled at the plate for much of the season, hitting just .209 as Frisco's full-time catcher in May, June and July. Pina was on another hot streak [9-for-18 with four doubles and one home run] in mid-August before suffering a hip injury that still has him on the disabled list.

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