The Cincinnati Reds received a bit of an unexpected boost to their rotation in 2021. Vladimir Gutierrez, who has long been viewed as a top pitching prospect in the organization, made his major league debut last season.
Due in most part to the injuries suffered by Michael Lorenzen and Sonny Gray in spring training, the Reds trotted out Jeff Hoffman and José De León as part of the starting rotation to begin the season. It became apparent rather quickly that those two hurlers were not fit for that type of role.
Vladimir Gutierrez made his Reds debut in 2021.
Vladimir Gutierrez got the call on a blustery Friday afternoon versus the Cubs. The right-hander started his first major league contest at Wrigley Field in Chicago in place of the injured Wade Miley and went five innings while allowing just one run on two hits.
Over his first 16 starts, it looked as though Gutierrez was making his case to be in the Rookie of the Year conversation. The Cuban-born hurler went 9-4 with 73 punch outs over 93 innings and a 3.68 ERA. In those 16 starts, only twice did Gutierrez fail to go at least five innings.
Gutierrez's win over the Miami Marlins on August 22nd, however, would be his last. The right-hander hit a wall after that performance, and over his final six starts of 2021, Gutierrez only got past the fourth inning once. During those six starts, Gutierrez went just 21 innings and posted a 9.43 ERA.
What can Reds fans expect from Vladimir Gutierrez in 2022?
One of the reasons we've likely heard Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle involved in trade rumors is due to the stellar play of Vladimir Gutierrez in 2021. The right-hander will not become a free agent until after the 2027 season.
The Reds front office has made it apparent this offseason that they're looking to shed payroll. Tucker Barnhart was traded to the Detroit Tigers and Wade Miley was picked up off waivers by the Chicago Cubs.
But, while reducing payroll is part of the plan, so is allocating increased playing time some of the organization's young talent. In addition to Gutierrez, the Reds have young pitchers like Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, and Reiver Sanmartin looking for their opportunity to become part of the Cincinnati starting rotation.
While I believe one of the trio of Castillo, Gray, and Mahle will not be with the Reds on Opening Day, until a trade occurs, I'll remain under the assumption that all three will suit up for Cincinnati next season. With that in mind, Gutierrez likely occupies the role of No. 4 starter.
FanGraphs projects Gutierrez to start 24 games in 2022 while posting a 5.41 ERA over 134 innings pitched. That's an increase of 20 innings pitched, but a slight jump in his ERA. Baseball Reference predicts the 26-year-old will go 8-6 with a 4.46 ERA.
Personally, I believe we'll see something in between. Reds fans should expect to see Gutierrez increase his number of innings of pitched, but I'm not expecting a dramatic dip in his ERA or a drastic increase in his strikeout numbers.
Heading into the season, the Cincinnati Reds likely see Vladimir Gutierrez as the team's No. 4 starter. If he performs anywhere close to above that level, I'm sure David Bell and Nick Krall will be doing cartwheels. I think fans should target 2023 for a potential breakout season from Gutierrez.