Cincinnati Reds: Vladimir Gutierrez could join the rotation this season

Mar 9, 2021; Goodyear, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez pitches. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2021; Goodyear, Arizona, USA; Cincinnati Reds pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez pitches. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

After his 2020 season, and even the first few weeks of 2021, were wiped out due to an 80-game suspension for PED use, Vladimir Gutierrez had to be eager to get things started on Thursday evening for the Louisville Bats. One of the organization’s top pitching prospects, Gutierrez looks like he could help the Cincinnati Reds rotation this season.

The Louisville Bats, Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate notched their first win of the season on Thursday night, thanks in no small part to the dominant effort put forth by Gutierrez. An international signee back in 2016, Gutierrez went six innings, struck out six, and allowed just one hit.

Vladimir Gutierrez could join the Reds rotation this season.

That type of dominant performance will go a long way towards deciding how the Cincinnati Reds front office hopes to proceed with Vladimir Gutierrez in 2021. With the Cincinnati bullpen looming as a giant question mark, some, myself included, thought that Gutierrez could be a nice option for David Bell to turn to late in games.

However, after last night’s performance, it may make more sense to insert Gutierrez into the starting rotation. Let’s be realistic enough to know that the type of performance we’ve seen from Jeff Hoffman this season are not franchise altering. The former Colorado Rockies pitcher is essentially keeping the seat warm until Michael Lorenzen returns from injury.

Lorenzen is months away from coming off the 60-day injured list, and the Cincinnati rotation is starting to show cracks. While Tyler Mahle has been spectacular and Sonny Gray appears to be returning to form, Luis Castillo seems like a shell of himself.

Wade Miley has been productive in his starts, but the lefty will be a free agent after this season, as it’s unlikely the Reds front office will pick up their team option. Miley’s signing was always intended to be a stopgap until Cincinnati’s young hurlers were ready for the big leagues.

Vladimir Gutierrez has the stuff to be a Major League starter.

Vladimir Gutierrez isn’t an elite-level, frontline starting pitcher. So forget the idea that he can be Luis Castillo. However, we’ve already seen what so called “back-end-of-the-rotation” starters have done during their time in the Cincinnati Reds system; see Tyler Mahle and Tejay Antone.

Gutierrez’s calling card is his breaking ball. Gutierrez’s fastball sits in the mid-90s, but his curveball may be one of the best in the Reds farm system. It has a sharp break to it and is a swing-and-miss pitch that will help the right-hander have a fairly high strikeout-rate.

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Gutierrez’s lone bugaboo is his propensity to give up home runs. During his 27 starts at Triple-A Louisville in 2019, the 25-year-old gave up 25 gopher balls over 26 starts. That’s a number that Gutierrez must improve upon if he hopes to become part of the Cincinnati Reds starting rotation.