The Cincinnati Reds made two big signings on the international market this year, both of them coming out of Cuba. Vladimir Gutierrez, a right handed pitcher, was the second of the two Cubans that signed with the organization and he signed a minor league deal for $4.75M, that the Reds also had to pay a fine of $4.75M to Major League Baseball for going over their spending limit.
Vladimir Gutierrez didn’t sign in time to actually play in the minor leagues this season, though he did participate in instruction league (he didn’t pitch in any games, but did work with the team in bullpen sessions and internal practices).
The now 21-year-old right hander (turned 21 on September 18) last pitched in Cuba in the 2014 season as an 18-year-old. In that season he posted a 2.45 ERA in 51.1 innings with 19 walks (4 intentional) and 49 strikeouts. He worked out of the bullpen in Cuba, though that was more likely because the only two years he was there came as a 17 and 18-year-old and not so much because he profiles as a reliever. Most believe that he’s going to be a starter into the future and the Reds plan to use him as such.
In that final season in Cuba his strikeout rate of 23.4% was the second best strikeout rate in the entire league and more than twice that of the league average of just over 11%. For a quick comparison, as an 18-year-old Aroldis Chapman had a strikeout rate of 28.6% (though his walk rate was 14.3%, compared to just 9.1% for Gutierrez). Raisel Iglesias didn’t pitch in the Cuban league’s highest level until he was 20, and at that point of his career he had a strikeout rate of just 15.5%. In his final year there, as a 22-year-old, Iglesias had a strikeout rate of 21.6%.
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Vladimir Gutierrez Scouting Report
Fastball | The pitch tends to work in the 93-95 MPH range and has touched 97 MPH regularly.
Curveball | He throws a power curveball in the 79-83 MPH range that has nice biting action with 11-5 breaking action. When it’s at it’s best it’s an above-average offering with late break. It can still be a little inconsistent and at times is merely an average pitch that can be a tad slurvy instead of a pure power curveball.
Change Up | It’s an average offering that works in the 82-85 MPH range with a little bit of tumbling action to it.
From a statistical standpoint, his 18-year-old season in Cuba was incredibly strong and projects very well for his future performance. Stats don’t always carry over, though, but his stuff certainly gives you the belief that it could. While his action in the United States is quite limited, the people I’ve talked to who have seen him are doing nothing but raving about him. One person who saw him throw in instructs called him “the absolute real deal” and couldn’t stop raving about the raw stuff he showed.
A year from now this ranking may look to be quite low, but his lack of experience as a professional here stateside works against him somewhat. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him begin his career with the Dayton Dragons, but quickly dominate and move up a level or two before the end of the year.