The Dominican Winter League will begin on Sunday, with a regular season schedule that will go from November 15th through December 20th before heading to the playoffs – which have historically lasted about a month, with the winning team moving on to the Caribbean Series (which will begin January 31st in Mazatlan, Mexico. One of the bigger prospects in the Cincinnati Reds organization to be playing in the winter leagues this year is right-handed pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez. He’ll be pitching for Licey in the Dominican Winter League again this season. Last winter he made seven starts for them, posting a 3.21 ERA in 28.0 innings.
Vladimir Gutierrez didn’t get to pitch in 2020. Unlike many others who didn’t get a chance to take the field during the season, the fact that Gutierrez didn’t get on the field anywhere is on himself. In spring training he failed a test for stanozolol – a performance enhancing drug – and was suspended for 80 games. That suspension likely led to Gutierrez not participating as a member of the Reds alternate site roster, where given his pedigree and experience, he almost assuredly would have been if he were eligible.
As we reported two weeks ago, Vladimir Gutierrez has served 60 games of his 80 game suspension, and will serve the remainder when the next season begins. But he can play in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, and for both he and the Reds, that’s probably a good thing given that he didn’t get a chance to pitch anywhere this year once spring training came to an end (his failed test wasn’t announced until June).
The entire rosters aren’t yet available for the Dominican Winter League teams. Some decisions are still being made, and the rosters will change throughout the course of the season. What is expected, though, is more upper level – and even big leaguers – will be participating this year than usual due to the lack of time on the field during 2020. That’s going to give Gutierrez innings against quality competition that he may not have gotten every time out in past years playing winter league baseball.
After pitching in instructional league with the Reds, Gutierrez will arrive in the Dominican Republic and join Licey today according to the official Licey website. With a regular season of just about six weeks, what can we expect to see from the Cuban-born right-handed starter in terms of a workload?
Sometimes pitchers will be limited in their workload during the winter due to both the previous season, and also trying to keep guys ready to perform in the following season with enough rest and recovery between winter ball and the regular season. 2020 changes a lot of that dynamic on the front end, and with Gutierrez still needing to serve 20 more games of his suspension next year, that does help a little bit on the back end of that typical dynamic, too.
I’ve been told that he’s “full go” when it comes to innings this winter, and that the hope is that he gets a lot of them. This spring before things shut down, Vladimir Gutierrez was showing some velocity that he hadn’t reached too often in the past. As a starter over the last few seasons he had been in the 91-95 range, touching higher every so often. This spring, though, he was around that 95-97 range more frequently. That will be something to keep an eye on over the next two months.