After his last showcase sparked more interest around the league, Cuban righthander Vladimir Gutierrez will have another open workout at the Phillies’ complex in Clearwater, Fla. on April 29.
Gutierrez, 20, had been one of the top pitching prospects in Cuba before he fled the Cuban team in Puerto Rico at the Caribbean Series in February 2015. Gutierrez became a free agent last summer, but he remained unsigned and switched agents multiple times, leaving teams unimpressed after showing vanilla stuff that was down from when he was in Cuba and mechanics that were out of whack.
His stock rebounded in a breakout performance last month in Florida, where J.J. Cooper wrote that Gutierrez sat at 92-94 mph and touched 96, flashing a hammer curveball up to 80 mph that was his signature out pitch in Cuba. Gutierrez has since been up to 97 mph in private showings, a significant increase from where he was last summer and more velocity than he ever showed in Cuba, when he was 88-93 mph but had all the physical indicators between his arm speed and lanky 6-foot-3 frame that more velocity would be coming.
The showcase will likely draw in more senior-level evaluators from teams that had previously been scratching their heads on Gutierrez after his showings last summer. It should also leave enough time for teams currently over their bonus pool—including the Blue Jays, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals—to make a decision before the 2015-16 signing period ends on June 15 and they are no longer able to sign pool-eligible players like Gutierrez for more than $300,000.
Teams also have the opportunity to watch Randy Arozarena, a former teammate of Gutierrez’s in Cuba for Pinar Del Rio, playing every day in Mexico. Arozarena played in his second game Tuesday for the Tijuana Toros of the Mexican League, going 1-for-8 with two walks and playing center field in both games. Arozarena, 21, had been playing well for the Toritos (Tijuana’s minor league team) in 11 games, batting .350/.458/.575 in 48 plate appearances and going 7-for-8 in stolen bases.
Arozarena is a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed, good bat control, a sound swing from the right side and a patient, disciplined hitting approach to get on base. Scouts are split on where he fits best—he has experience at shortstop and second base as well—but he projects as a potential leadoff hitter who should play somewhere in the middle of the diamond. Arozarena ranked as the No. 9 prospect in Cuba in Baseball America’s Top 20 Cuban player rankings in April 2015, coming off a season in which he batted .291/.412/.419 in 74 games.
At this point, it seems probable that Arozarena will wait until July 2 to sign. The Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres and Reds are all planning to exceed their international bonus pools when the 2016-17 signing period opens on July 2.