Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome Back to the Blue, Franklin Gutierrez!

This was something I didn't expect.  According to Manolo Hernandez on twitter, veteran outfielder and one-time Dodger prospect Franklin Gutierrez will be signing a one-year free agent contract with Los Angeles.  As you may know, Franklin had originally signed with the Dodgers as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2000, then quickly became the teams top prospect, and was eventually traded to Cleveland in 2004 to get Milton Bradley. 

While an Indian and later-on a Mariner Gutierrez made himself into one of the top defensive center fielders in the game.  Today, he is no better than league average.  This decline likely has much to do with a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis that caused him to miss all of the 2014 season.  It is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and large joints.  Per Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs:
Young athletes are not often diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, but Gutierrez was, and there isn’t a cure. It’s a condition he’ll deal with for the rest of his life, and it costs him flexibility and mobility. It’s cruel and unrelenting, and when Gutierrez elected to not play, he couldn’t have known whether he’d ever be able to return.
Per Jeff Todd at MLB Trade Rumors:
Making his return to the M’s in 2015, Gutierrez posted a stunning .292/.354/.620 batting line with 15 home runs over his 189 plate appearances. That earned him a MLB deal with Seattle for the 2016 campaign. While he wasn’t quite as good, Gutierrez posted a strong .246/.329/.452 slash and popped another 14 long balls.

There are some limitations, of course. Once an everyday player, Gutierrez was used almost exclusively against left-handed pitching last year. Historically, he has been much better against southpaws, too. And despite his former status as a top-quality defender in center, Gutierrez rated most recently as a subpar fielder in a corner spot (though metrics took a more optimistic view of his glovework in 2015).
In celebration of Gutierrez's pending signing with to the Dodgers I made the above two fantasy Baseball card of him.  On the left I used the 1966 Topps Baseball card design and a photo per USATSI found at CBS Sports, and the card on the right uses the 1977 Topps Baseball card design and uses a photo taken originally by Dodger photograph Jon SooHoo when Franklin was still a prospect.

Below are his career statistics, via Baseball-Reference:

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* Dodgers Blue Heaven home page *

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