Abrahan Gutierrez has been hiding in the shadows of Henry Davis and Endy Rodriguez, but what could the future hold for the Pittsburgh Pirates' third best catching prospect?
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired a handful of catching prospects in 2021. They acquired Endy Rodriguez from the New York Mets in the offseason, drafted Henry Davis with the first overall pick, and acquired Abrahan Gutierrez at the trade deadline. If Davis gets off to a hot start in 2023, Abrahan Gutierrez could take over a regular role for Altoona. But with so many catching prospects, what does his future hold?
Gutierrez spent the year at High-A Greensboro. In 441 plate appearances, the backstop had a .257/.356/.411 line. Gutierrez walked at a decent 11.8% walk rate, but he did have a somewhat high 25.4% strikeout rate. But he did show off some solid power with a dozen home runs, 22 doubles, and a .154 isolated slugging percentage. Overall, he had a 112 wRC+ on the season. Gutierrez did slightly better during the summer months, owning a .800 OPS, .366 wOBA, and 120 wRC+ after the start of June.
Defensively, Gutierrez is considered an average to slightly above-average defensive backstop. He had a 26% caught stealing rate and only allowed three passed balls in 381 innings, averaging one passed ball about every 127 innings caught. There's nothing that stands out about his defensive prowess, but he does not cost his team runs with his glove.
Gutierrez's weakest tool is his power, which leaves many to question his long-term ability. Going into the year, Gutierrez was best known for his ability to make contact. His 81% contact rate in 2021 was one in the best in the minors. He also only struck out 14.4% of the time. Of course, he saw a major increase in strikeout rate over the past season but did have more extra-base hits. Still, the raw power is questionable at best for Gutierrez.
With the amount of catching talent, Gutierrez has also taken up first base. Last season, he logged 178 innings in 21 games at first base. He's still a catcher by trade, but having the ability to play another position certainly helps him, given the catching talent the Pirates have.
It also helps that Rodriguez has positional flexibility. All three of Rodriguez, Davis, and Gutierrez started the year at Greensboro. Because of the amount of catching talent, Gutierrez took up first base, and Rodriguez saw time at second base. But does that mean that Gutierrez will see time in the major leagues behind the dish for the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Davis may not be seen as a catcher long-term and his future could be as a first baseman or designated hitter. But the Pirates are fairly set on him behind the plate right now. It would be easier for the Pirates to get Gutierrez playing time if they decide to let Rodriguez and Davis share the backstop while also playing first base or designated hitter. But Gutierrez has the potential to be a solid backup. Even if Davis and Rodriguez share the position, one or the other are going to need a day off here and there.
I think the Pirates should at least keep the possibility of a trade. Let's say that by the trade deadline, both Rodriguez and Davis have at least both made their MLB debut, and Austin Hedges is still on the roster. Gutierrez could be used to acquire a player to bolster the roster. He might not fetch much on his own, but he could be a nice deal-sweetener.
All told, it's going to depend on Rodriguez and Davis. If both are healthy and performing well, it's going to be hard to reason why Gutierrez shouldn't become potential trade bait. But catching depth is extremely important. While Gutierrez could potentially become a player the Pirates dangle in trade talks, the Pirates shouldn't simply give him up without getting fair market value or what they are looking for/need to improve the roster. The Pirates saw what happened last year when they didn't have a good secondary catcher entering the year, and you got semi-regular playing time from Michael Perez and Andrew Knapp.