Royals: Prospect rewind, infielder Kelvin Gutierrez

Kelvin Gutierrez got his first taste of the big leagues for the Kansas City Royals in 2019. The results were mixed, at best.

Kelvin Gutierrez came to the Royals organization in 2018 in a swap of Kelvins that sent Kelvin Herrera to the Washington Nationals. The ultimate results of the trade for the Kansas City Royals are still unknown and will be for some time, but the most major league ready player the Nationals gave up was Gutierrez.

Gutierrez came to the Royals organization with a reputation as an elite defender at third base and an average bat. During his short time in Kansas City this season he played like an average defender with an average bat, at best.

I was not surprised by the offensive struggles of Gutierrez in the big leagues. He only played 20 games. His strikeout rate jumped up and his walk rate plummeted. His Slugging Percentage was barely over .350. But he did hit for a decent batting average of .260. And 20 games are not enough of a sample size to make judgments or predictions on a prospect.

The defensive struggles we saw Kelvin endure at third base were a bit surprising, at least to me. He has a reputation as a very good defender with an elite arm. 3 errors in 18 games at third base was genuinely shocking to see. He looked uncomfortable, at times, on defense. Hopefully, that was just the nervous energy of a young man getting his first taste of Major League Baseball.

In 2019 Gutierrez put together a nice season in Omaha. He kept his OPS right around .800 all year. His batting average was .287. And his On Base Percentage was .367. And both of those numbers are right about where his career numbers are over 7 seasons in the minor leagues.

There are plenty of bright spots for Kelvin Gutierrez as a hitter. He makes contact. He does not strike out a lot. He walks a decent amount, if not a great amount. His respectable batting average keeps his On Base Percentage at a reasonable level. His issue has not been making contact. His issue has always been, and still remains to be, the kind of contact he is making.

Kelvin Gutierrez has a Slugging Percentage under .400 for his minor league career. That is not acceptable for a third baseman. His groundball percentage in Omaha last season was 54 percent. Yikes. In Kansas City, over his small sample size, his groundball percentage was 68. 68 percent! That many groundballs would make Eric Hosmer wince.

If Gutierrez wants to keep from becoming Cheslor Cuthbert he is going to need to get some lift on his swing. He is going to need to make better contact. Having an athletic third baseman that can move as well as Kelvin can move is nice to have. Having a third baseman that can only hit grounders is not an everyday player.

There are some reasons to be hopeful here. His two best home run seasons were his last two seasons. The best season, in his career, as a hitter was 2019 in Omaha. He is only 24 years old. It is not unthinkable that he makes an adjustment or two and begins driving the ball somewhere other than into the ground. Matt Carpenter did not become an everyday major leaguer until he was 26 and then did not hit more than 11 home runs until he was 29.

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Kelvin has shown he can more than handle AAA baseball. He will take a walk, if not quite at an elite level. He has shown he can keep his strikeouts manageable. But he will need to show us some pop in 2020. He has to prove he can consistently get some lift on a baseball before the Kansas City Royals can begin considering him a useful enough player to move guys around in the big leagues in order to open up a spot for him. Otherwise, a backup infielder will be the most we get out of him.