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15. Carlos Gutierrez, Right-Handed Reliever, 25 years old
2011 stats: 2-3 4.62 ERA 57/31 K/BB in 62.1 innings for AAA Rochester.
Last year's rank: 43
Acquired: Drafted in the first round (27th overall) out of University of Miami in 2008
Gutierrez has been a highly thought of prospect in the Twins system since he was drafted in 2008, though considered a little bit of a stretch as the 27th pick. (Shooter Hunt drafted 31st was actually considered the better pick) He has steadily climbed the Twins minor league ladder to the point where he was added to the 40 man roster this off-season and is on the cusp of making his MLB debut.
Gutierrez is sometimes ranked as a top 10 prospect in the Twins system but hasn't ever really backed that lofty ranking up. He's generally had high ERAs and he generally gives up more than a hit an inning. His FIP is usually a little lower than his ERA and BABIP is often high, suggesting he's been a little unlucky. As a ground ball pitcher, Gutierrez will need good fielding behind him to maximize his ability.
Gutierrez has been tried as both a starter and a reliever with the Twins. In 2009 and 2010 he was often used as a starter with mixed results. His K/9 innings in 2009-2010 were under 6 per inning while walking nearly 4 per inning. In 2011, he was only used in relief and his K/9 rate shot up to 8.23 per inning, but his BB/9 rate was 4.48. He has a good fastball, I have seen him hit 96 MPH and he can be dominant, but generally he doesn't sustain his dominance for long periods of time. His stuff has been compared to the former Fausto Carmona and I'd like to believe in him more, but unless he can keep that sinker over the plate. If he can walk less and mix his pitches to induce a few more strikeouts, Gutierrez could be a set-up guy or closer. Right now, he looks like a 6th or 7th inning reliever and ranks this high on my list due to probable 2012 major league impact and potential top-end.
Ideal scenario: Gutierrez will start the year hot in Rochester and get a promotion to the Twins sketchy bullpen. Once promoted, if he can strikeout at least 7.5 per/9 and keep his walk rate down, he could be a really solid set-up guy and have a long major league career.
Path to the majors: Gutierrez will make his Twins debut in 2012 assuming he stays healthy and doesn't completely fall apart in Rochester.
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