Despite the KC Royals’ offseason signing of Maikel Franco, don’t forget about Kelvin Gutierrez and his role with the team just yet.
As 2020 KC Royals spring training gets into its groove, so do the players invited to camp. Roster battles are beginning to heat up and both veterans and youngsters are making their respective cases as to who’s worthy of a spot on the Opening Day roster. One name that’s gone relatively unmentioned thus far: Kelvin Gutierrez.
Gutierrez came over to Kansas City in a trade involving former All-Star reliever Kelvin Herrera back in 2018. Heading into his new environment, he carried a reputation as a player with an okay bat and a plus glove with a terrific arm. He didn’t debut with the Royals until 2019, and the results weren’t all that pretty.
Our Michael Huckins broke down Gutierrez’s 2019 campaign in a previous post. He highlighted the surprisingly poor defense the Dominican third baseman displayed at the hot corner, alluding to it perhaps being a result of nerves. Here’s a bit more from Michael’s original analysis:
"“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.”"
He was spot-on. Gutierrez has more than proven that he can produce in the minor leagues. As he’s now entering his age-25 season, time is no longer on his side. It’s time for him to earn a long-term spot on the major league roster — and keep it.
Gutierrez’s cup of coffee with the Royals last season saw him post a .260 batting average, yet also saw him struggle to record many extra-base hits. Power has long been a major question mark surrounding his game, and last year was no different. If he wants to secure a starting spot down the road, he’ll have to either drive the ball into Kauffman Stadium’s spacious gaps or possibly even launch 10-15 balls out of the park.
One thing stands in his way, though: Maikel Franco. He was signed to man the hot corner so Hunter Dozier could move to right field. Franco has more than enough pop in his bat to stick at the MLB level and has been working on a plan somewhat similar to the one that propelled Jorge Soler towards becoming one of the best hitters in all of baseball. He’s going to get every opportunity to start at third in 2020.
The Kansas City Star’s Lynn Worthy recently put out a piece on Gutierrez’s situation, mentioning some injuries he suffered that led to the Royals signing Franco. Gutierrez still has a chance to be the “guy” down the road but for now, Franco provides him with the opportunity to be called up when he’s 100 percent ready for the challenge.
That isn’t a bad thing. While it would’ve been nice for Kelvin Gutierrez to come up and assume full-time duties at third base this season, it just wasn’t in the cards. Instead, he’ll get some time to prove he can stay healthy, along with the organization figuring out just how high his ceiling is.
He’s got the physical tools. Now, it’s time to see if he can put them all together for the KC Royals.