Thursday, September 3, 2009

TX trades Smitty, Pena to KC for Daniel Gutierrez

Can't say that I get this move especially because I think Smitty is close to being a big league regular in LF with an AA bat, playing AA defense. And if you think that KC got Smitty when it wanted Moreland, I bet it's quite the opposite. I think Pena's catchability was overrated last year, opinions based primarily on his arm, but, according to the staff, he has made tremendous improvement this year on blocking balls and other catching fundamentals (and, one would hope, game calling, and improved english, which is still n'igh unintelligible). I felt that Smitty could make it to the bigs next year in the second half, most likely post trade deadline, while Pena was at least 1.5 years away due to his bat - he hit ~.2oo this season save for the first 2 weeks - and his relative lack of experiene due to his early-career injuries. So, all in all, Smitty was the key to this trade in my mind while Pena could develop into a backup catcher.

As for Daniel Gutierrez, the organization is taking an inadvisable risk that his makeup issues are an aberration or, as you are sure to hear tomorrow, "he's just a kid who could use a change of scenery." Nonsense. He seems to have pissed away 2 years of his carreer, which is why he is a 22 yo with only one month's worth of work in HighA, a league that he might have to repeat next year at 23. After his awful debut in 2006, you would think that the kid would come out knowing that he had something to prove in his second season. Instead, he was suspended in 2007 for unspecified violations of team rules (with 3 others) for about 4 months of the season - it must have been something pretty serious. As you've all heard he impressed at fall instructs and then had a nice 2008. But then he was arrested for minor assault in the spring that put him both afoul of the law and the team; he pleaded guilty, paid a 500$ fine and must commit to community work int AZ. Meanwhile, he and Boras inc. got in a dispute with team trainers and KC sent him home (to rehab with his agency I guess).

None of this really portrays a good guy, and it seems more likely that his propensity to be an idiot is much more likely to derail his ceiling than Smitty and Pena fail to reach their own. But there is more. The injury issue. Apparently he missed about 7 weeks in 2008 - late april to mid june - with a fracture of the tip of his elbow (like Strop). Then this year, apparently, he has suffered from what has to be regarded as pretty serious shoulder problems as it has forced him to miss 80% of the season - the second time in three years that he has missed nigh 4 months of a 5 month minor league season.

Ok so let's say that you think that Smitty and Pena are just guys, and you think that DGut's problems are just blemishes, all while also holding that his injuries are flukish, and being flukish, there is no better org for him than TX. Ok so then let's look at his talent. Here is my take: previously ave fb (90) that flashed above average now sits above average (92) and flashes plus (94,95) with plus command vs RHH/average command vs LHH with an above average to plus curveball that he commands well too.

So what about his changeup? Well, this is where that "ceiling" argument fails, given all the preconditions that I just posited. If you buy Baseball America's profile of the kid, they say only that "he has a feel" for it (so it would seem sensible to hold that his BAA vs LHH is low due to his nice FB command and good BB rather than due to a changeup up that, according to one report, he never really threw much). After 4 years in the organization, he only has a "feel" for a changeup. It seems to me that if the kid was committed to working on the pitch - the only thing that separates him from stardom and a loading dock - it would already be an average pitch right now. But given the loss of 2 years in his development due to character issues, it has not, and serves as a perfect example of why it is not likely to develop; he doesnt' have what it takes to be a professional ball player it seems. He likely ends up as a bullpen arm as his changeup wilts on the vine. Isn't it more likely that he is Juaquin Arias or Neil Ramirez rather than Tommy Hunter?

Finally, I don't think this can be regarded as a rule5 roster maneuever,as there is room for Pena this fall, and Smith is not eligible, so why did TX make this move? It seems obvious that JD chose ceiling over character and for a team that just jettisoned Padzilla to the curb because he was an asshole, it hardly seems justifiable. So I oppose the deal based on the asshole principle alone but you too can oppose it if you buy the "ceiling" argument based on the unlikelihood that he ever reaches it because, and well, this is where i beat you, beacause he's an asshole. I'll take the hard-working, character guys like Smitty and Pena every time.

Here is a nice little profile that I found over at royaltower:

I think it is safe to say that Daniel Gutierrez has had one of the more obscure paths on his way toward the top of prospect lists. He started as a late round pick in 2005, as there was nearly 1,000 players taken before him that year. Signed the next May as a draft-and-follow, Gutierrez debuted as a pro at Idaho Falls and had an absolutely miserable go of it. Things didn't get much better in 2007 either, when news came down that he and three others were suspended for a violation of team rules. However, later in 2007, news started filtering in about how well Gutierrez looked in the instructional league, and he slowly started to make his way up prospect lists. He showed the buzz was for real in 2008 with a stellar season in Burlington, and now his name gets mixed in with the other top pitching prospects in the organization.

The Scouting Report

What makes Gutierrez very intriguing is his fantastic fastball/curveball mix. While he doesn't have the best fastball in terms of pure velocity within the organization, he might have the best combination of velocity and command of the pitch. It's the curveball though that really makes Gutierrez stand out -- it's a legitimate plus pitch already with a chance to be even better. Those two pitches alone should allow him to be a reliever in the future even without too much improvement.

The part that bothers me a little is the changeup, or lack thereof. It's not that he's not working on the pitch (which young pitcher isn't?), but I've heard it's just not there yet. Gutierrez wasn't even using it in games during times last year, due to the fact it was behind and the fact he didn't really need it. Left-handed batters hit about .30 points higher than right-handed hitters did, which stands out when looking at his splits in 2008.


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