Cincinnati Reds: Vladimir Gutierrez could be solid option for taxi squad

GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 23: Starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez #76 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
GOODYEAR, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 23: Starting pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez #76 of the Cincinnati Reds (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Vladimir Gutierrez could be a nice addition to the Reds taxi squad in 2020.

Multiple doubleheaders and a lack of off days will require the Cincinnati Reds and other teams throughout baseball to utilize some top-level prospects that might not have seen a major league field in 2020. Adding Vladimir Gutierrez to the taxi squad could give the right-hander a great opportunity.

The outlook for minor league baseball this season isn’t good. So, what’s a team to do with the plethora of minor league talent likely to miss out on crucial development during the 2020 season. Several of them may find their way onto the taxi squad.

With a condensed schedule, MLB is looking to implement a 30-man roster for the 2020 season and an additional 20 players will make up the taxi squad. A taxi squad, similar to the practice squad in football, is essentially a group of players ready to go should a player on the active roster become injured or need time away from the game.

The biggest injury threat lies with the pitchers. A proposed three week spring training may not be enough to see the majority of hurlers stretched out enough, and we’ll certainly see a lot of pitchers on an innings limit. With that said, the Reds need plenty of arms ready to go if need be.

While the starting rotation is the strength of the 2020 Cincinnati Reds, if a player like Luis Castillo or Trevor Bauer goes down, who’s going to take over? Obviously, Tyler Mahle would be the first option out of the gate, but given the idea of multiple doubleheaders and limited off days, the Reds may go to a six-man rotation with Mahle occupying that final spot.

So who would Cincinnati turn to? Lucas Sims is definitely a candidate. However, one should expect Sims to be part of this year’s bullpen. Cody Reed could be an option, but the southpaw has had little success as a starter since coming to the Queen City.

Instead, the Reds should look to some of their younger prospects. These players will need reps anyway, so the likes of Tony Santillan, Tejay Antone, and yes, Vladimir Gutierrez should be given a chance to showcase their talent.

Gutierrez is an interesting case, as entering last season, the Cuban-native was ranked among the Top 10 prospects in the Reds organization according to MLB Pipeline, and was ranked as high as No. 7 back in 2018. But, a poor showing in 2019 saw Gutierrez sink to No. 15 entering the 2020 season, below the likes of Santillan and lefty Packy Naughton.

Still, Vladmir Gutierrez is the most experienced of the young Reds hurlers, spending all of last season at Triple-A Louisville. To say Gutierrez had an inconsistent season in 2019 would be an understatement. The 24-year-old went 6-11 with a 6.04 ERA after recording an earned run average below 4.50 in his previous two stops.

However, in his final five starts of the 2019 season, Gutierrez turned things around, going 3-1 with a 2.83 ERA over 28.2 innings of work. Going into those final few weeks, Gutierrez’s ERA had ballooned to 6.90 and he had surrendered 22 home runs while allowing an .873 OPS. Over those final five games, opponents only reached a .576 OPS against Gutierrez.

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Vladimir Gutierrez has the stuff to be successful. The right-hander owns a plus-fastball and a plus-changeup. I think Reds fans know of another starting pitcher who has a similar profile and earned an All-Star appearance in 2019 with that same repertoire.