- Full name Juan Carlos Gutierrez
- Born 07/14/1983 in Puerto De La Cruz, Venezuela
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 245 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- Debut 08/19/2007
Organization Prospect Rankings
Gutierrez spent four years in Rookie ball, which meant that he had to be protected on Houston's 40-man roster before he even reached a full-season league. But the Astros haven't regretted that decision or their patience, and he made his big league debut in August. Gutierrez has one of the better fastballs in the system, both in terms of its low-90s velocity and its sink. He'll flash a plus changeup at times, allowing him to keep hitters off balance. He has a sturdy frame and has missed time just once in seven years as a pro, when he had a tender elbow in 2006. His command regressed last season, as did his secondary pitches. Gutierrez doesn't finish his curveball consistently and it's probably going to be an average pitch at best. He's unflappable on the mound, but he's also too happy-go-lucky at times. Gutierrez could wind up as a reliever. He pitched better in that role during his big league stint, and he may not have enough command or pitches to stick in the rotation. Houston isn't ready to make that move yet, however, and will give him a long look in spring training.
The Astros had to protect Gutierrez on their 40-man roster before he got to full-season ball, and they haven't regretted the decision. He missed six weeks last year with a tender elbow, but returned and did not allow a run in his last four regular-season starts. He won both his playoff outings and was Corpus Christi's Game One starter. Gutierrez has lit up radar guns from years and attacks hitters with a 92-95 sinker. Though he was reluctant to use his secondary pitches against more advanced hitters, his curveball and changeup are solid. One scout liked his changeup more than his fastball, which is saying something. If Gutierrez had his way, he'd still try to blow the ball by most hitters, so he needs to keep mixing pitches and changing speeds. His command is improving but still requires work. He hasn't had arm problems in the past, but Houston will watch him closely after his elbow issues cropped up. All three of his pitches show at least flashes of being out pitches, giving Gutierrez the highest ceiling among the system's pitchers. Destined for Triple-A at the start of 2007, he could help Houston as a starter or reliever in the second half.
Gutierrez repeated both the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer and Appalachian leagues, so the Astros had to protect him on the 40-man roster before he reached full-season ball. He accomplished that mission in 2005, even making it to high Class A in August. Yet another Venezuelan power pitcher in the system, Gutierrez has a 90-96 mph fastball and a big-breaking, 77-78 mph curveball that he uses as his out pitch. He'll even flash a plus changeup at times. His curveball was more consistent in 2005, and he showed much better control and feel than he had in Rookie ball. Strong and durable, he should be able to accumulate innings. Gutierrez still needs to grasp the art of changing speeds. His changeup has its moments, but it's a distant third pitch. His mechanics break down at times, costing him control and command. He needs to improve his conditioning and tone down his on-field antics. If Gutierrez continues to improve like he did in 2005, he could soar through the rest of the minors. The Astros will start him off back in high Class A in 2006.
Because Gutierrez has repeated both the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer and Appalachian leagues, he had to be protected on the 40-man roster this offseason, before he even threw a pitch in full-season ball. While he remains raw, the Astros weren't going to risk losing him in the major league Rule 5 draft. He tied for the Appy League lead in victories with Greeneville teammate Levi Romero, and Gutierrez capped his season by pitching seven innings of one-run ball in the championship clincher. He already has two plus pitches in his 90-96 mph fastball and a big-breaking curveball. Houston also praises his makeup, pointing to his leadership as a key factor in Greeneville's championship. Guttierez' changeup should become at least average, but he needs to use it more. He had difficulty maintaining his mechanics early in the summer, so for a while he won with just his fastball. If he learns how to repeat his delivery, he'll also improve his control, which wavers at times. He has a sturdy frame but needs to make sure it doesn't go soft on him. Gutierrez was old for the Appy League at 21, and now that the clock on his options has started ticking, the Astros will accelerate his development. It's possible he could skip a level and open 2005 in high Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Another product of the Astros' scouting efforts in Venezuela, Gutierrez moved exceptionally slowly, not reaching full-season ball until 2005--five years after he signed. He jumped to Double-A this season and showed dominant stuff, though he missed more than a month at midseason because of a sore arm. He finished strong, however, winning two games as the Hooks' Game One starter in both playoff series. Gutierrez' fastball registered at 92-95 mph with good sink. He used two breaking balls, with his curveball more effective than his slider. His changeup still needs work but came along, as did his command.
Gutierrez was one of the older (21) and more physically mature players (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) players in the league. He pitched like it, tying for the Appy lead with eight wins. A full-time starter for the first time, he was able to maintain his 90-96 mph fastball for six or seven innings per outing. Gutierrez uses a big-breaking curveball as a strikeout pitch, though mechanical inconsistency made him primarily a fastball pitcher early in the season. He also features a solid changeup but needs to use it more, and he must be careful not to let his body get too soft. "He's as poised as anyone I've ever seen at this level," Bogar said. "It doesn't matter if he's giving it up or pitching well."