Projecting KC Royals prospects: No. 21, Kelvin Gutierrez

Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images /

Some may view him as merely a depth piece, while others believe he’s the KC Royals’ third baseman of the future. When will we find out?

When the KC Royals signed third baseman Maikel Franco to a one-year deal this past offseason, that all but slammed the door shut on any hopes Kelvin Gutierrez would start the season there. It was a sign that perhaps Gutierrez needed more time at the minor league level before becoming a full-time MLB player.

At 25 years old, there’s some pressure on Gutierrez to start performing. In 75 games with Triple-A Omaha last season, he hit .287, drove in 43 runs and stole 12 bases for the Storm Chasers. He also had a 20-game cup of coffee with the Royals, posting a .660 OPS and striking out 24 times.

MLB Pipeline current lists Gutierrez as the KC Royals’ No. 21 prospect, a four-spot drop from where he checked in a season ago. His ground-ball rate is high and although he carries an impressive resume as a defender, he needs to tap into his power potential in order to assume full-time duties at third base either later this season or early next year. Here are some possible scenarios for Gutierrez:

Best outcome:

Gutierrez makes the most of his 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame and starts arriving earlier to the baseball. As a result, balls begin launching into the air instead of being driven into the ground. His home run totals increase and his newfound confidence leads to a more complete approach at the plate. Perhaps the Royals trade Franco midseason, allowing Gutierrez to step into his spot. If not, he builds some great momentum heading into 2021.

Worst outcome:

The ground-balls continue to be the norm. Strikeouts remain an issue. Defense alone isn’t enough to get Gutierrez promoted to the majors and without any real power to make the most of, he becomes a prototypical “AAAA” player. Too good for the minor leagues, but not quite good enough to leave a lasting impression at the MLB level. What was once a promising start to Gutierrez’s tenure in the KC Royals’ system quickly turns sour as he turns 26 in August.

Most likely outcome:

While Gutierrez doesn’t figure things out completely at the plate, he takes his good 2019 in AAA and turns it into a dominant 2020. He remains a high-strikeout player with a tendency to drive the ball downward but with a bit of seasoning, both should improve at least a bit. Defense remains his calling card and the KC Royals decide to ride out this season with Franco, paving the way for Gutierrez to possibly take over as the everyday third baseman a year from now.

Next. Projecting pitcher Daniel Tillo. dark

Kelvin Gutierrez has some solid physical gifts and instincts as a player. 2020 will show whether he’ll be able to turn that into consistent production.