Franklin Gutierrez and His Potential Impact

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In the year 2000, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed an amateur free agent by the name of Franklin Gutierrez. He was just 17 years old at the time. By 2004, he was considered a top prospect with 5-tool potential and was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Milton Bradley. He was a part of the Indians’ organization until 2008, when he was traded to the Seattle Mariners. He effectively stayed with Seattle until 2017 when the Dodgers signed him yet again, this time at the age of 34, to a 1 year/$2.6 million deal with added incentives potentially making the deal worth an even $3 million. As the deal was made late into the offseason (Feb. 10th), it was clear this move was made simply for right-handed offensive depth, or rather depth that can hit left-handed pitching well. It’s no secret that lefty pitching was perhaps the 2016 Dodgers’ greatest challenge outside of battling against the record-breaking DL count. Will Franklin Gutierrez help the Dodgers avoid such struggles this year? Let’s take a look at what he did last year starting with some basic cumulative, participation numbers:

 

2016 Stats Total vs. LHP vs. RHP
Games Played 98 86 45
At-Bats 248 186 62
Plate Appearances 283 217 66

 

One important note: He only started 62 of the 98 games he played in. It is important to notice how the more specific one looks at his participation last year, the greater the discrepancy in production against LHP vs. RHP gets. One could infer from this that he was likely used as a right-handed platoon player. The Dodgers have a ton of outfielders in the spectrum of decent to potentially great. Depending on how they perform, especially Enrique Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke, and, of course, Yasiel Puig, Gutierrez can potentially get quite a bit of playing time against LHP. One obvious platoon partner is Andre Ethier. Despite missing almost all of the 2016 season, Ethier is said to be healthy and expected to make a return to the 25-man roster in April. Both veterans that have primarily played right field throughout their careers, could end up platooning in left field instead if Yasiel Puig plays to the potential he’s shown in the past. Additionally, Trayce Thompson is a competitor of Gutierrez for the platoon spot. Despite sustaining a long-term back injury last year, he made quite a splash in the 80 games he played for Los Angeles. Andrew Toles is another player to keep an eye on, as he can possibly propel himself back into a starting job over either veteran.  As expected with so much depth, there is a lot up in the air at the moment with no clear answer. In the event that Gutierrez finds himself in a role similar to his platoon role in Seattle last year, what can he really provide on the field? Let’s once again take a look at his numbers from last year, this time with actual production statistics:

 

2016 Stats Total vs. LHP vs. RHP
Batting Average .246 .280 .145
Hits 61 52 9
Home Runs 14 12 2
RBIs 39 32 7
Strikeouts 85 60 25
Walks 29 27 2

 

As seen above, Gutierrez against LHP performed head-and-shoulders above Gutierrez against RHP. While, of course, he did get more consistent playing time against LHP, the numbers still speak strongly — he is just simply better against LHP. One thing that looks rough at first is that about ¾ of his Ks were against LHP, but it’s important to remember that ¾ of his at-bats were against LHP. That said, strikeouts seem to be an issue for him as he had a K% of 30% last season. For comparison, Corey Seager’s was 19.4%, Yasmani Grandal’s was 25.4%, and Joc Pederson’s was 27.3%. If Gutierrez can cut down on the strikeouts, he would make a strong case for being a platoon partner, be it with Andre Ethier or another of the Dodgers’ many outfield options. Be that as it may, he’ll first have to prove he can still put up those numbers. That’s usually what Spring Training is for, but so far it hasn’t looked great for him. While Yasiel Puig has looked very promising yet again, Gutierrez was hitless in his first 16 at-bats of the spring. However, of those first 16 at-bats, 12 of them were against RHP. The Dodgers were possibly just testing his weak spot to see if he could find his stroke against that added adversity. Nonetheless, hitless is hitless. That was until Friday night in the Dodgers’ powerful 12-2 victory over the Texas Rangers. He finally connected on a 2-run homer to right field off Cole Hamels, who is, of course, a left-handed pitcher. Perhaps just a lucky stroke and the struggles and slumping will continue, or perhaps he has found his swing again and will fight throughout the rest of spring to prove himself deserving of that platoon spot. I believe he still has a strong chance at making it happen. As Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts said, “With a guy like Guti, it doesn’t take much to find his stroke. […] He’ll get there.”

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One Response to Franklin Gutierrez and His Potential Impact

  1. Pingback: Lefty-Loosey, Righty-Tighty: The Dodgers’ Tools to Fix Their LHP Woes | National League West Blog

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