|The Royals have seen a trio of young lefties—Danny Duff, John Lamb and Mike Montgomery—flourish in the low minors this year, but they haven’t had the same luck with righthanders. Tim Melville has acclimated himself to low Class A, yes, but Blake Wood has scuffled in Double-A; Carlos Rosa was converted to a reliever at Triple-A; and Dan Cortes was shipped to Seattle for Yuniesky Betancourt.|
|The Young Players|
|Because of injury, the 22-year-old Gutierrez had failed this season to build on a breakout campaign in the Midwest League a year ago. An ’05 33rd-round draft-and-follow, he owes his success to a lively low-90s fastball and a plus curveball. He’s taken the mound in just eight games this season, going 1-0, 1.65 for high Class A Wilmington while compiling a 25-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 25 innings. A year ago, Gutierrez struck out 104 batters in 90 innings as part of a 4-4, 2.70 season.
Signed out of Venezuela in ’04, Pina batted .481 in 13 April games for Frisco, but he had cooled to a more sustainable .259/.313/.393 with 17 doubles and eight homers through 321 at-bats at the time of the trade. The 22-year-old backstop may develop into an average-ish offensive player for the position, but he shoots to the top of the Royals depth chart by virtue of his defensive acumen. Pina threw out 35-of-110 Texas League basestealers for a 32 percent success rate that ranked fourth among qualified catchers. He has a plus arm, although the rest of his defensive work behind the plate is less polished.
The 23-year-old Smith had been rehabbing from a finger injury in the Arizona League at the time of the trade. A native of Toronto, he lacks that one outstanding tool that would mark him as a potential big league regular. Smith runs OK and swings a decent lefty bat, but he’s not quick enough for center field and his bat probably won’t play on a corner—at least not in regular duty. A seventh-round pick from Arizona State in ’07, Smith batted .309/.380/.439 with three homers, nine doubles and 32 RBIs in 36 games with Frisco. He had shown a patient approach, however, walking 14 times against 21 whiffs over 139 at-bats.
|Gutierrez, who has spent much of the season on the disabled list, is a high-risk, high-reward player. Some of that risk is on the field, where he has to show that he can stay healthy, but some is off the field as well. He has had three brushes with the law in the last year and a half, according to the official Arizona Judicial Branch Website. In March 2008, police charged him with speeding and driving with no valid license; he pleaded guilty and paid a fine in June. In May 2008, police charged him with disorderly conduct/fighting; he was found guilty and paid a fine in December. And in June, police charged him with assault; he has pleaded not guilty and the case has not been resolved.
For the Royals, they get needed depth for the upper levels of the system. Kansas City has shown impressive talent at the lower levels of the farm system this year, but the Double-A and Triple-A teams have been almost bereft of prospects. Pina immediately becomes the most advanced catching prospect in the system.