One of the under-the-radar trades the Pirates made at the 2021 trade deadline was sending left-handed minor league reliever Braeden Ogle to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for catcher Abrahan Gutierrez. The backstop made a great first impression in the tail-end of 2021, slashing .294/.448/.471 with a 157 wRC+ with more walks (16) than strikeouts (13) in 87 plate appearances. Although he didn’t continue his torrid pace from last year, he still delivered a solid season overall.
In 441 plate appearances at Greensboro, Gutierrez batted .257/.356/.411 with a .353 wOBA and 112 wRC+. Gutierrez seemed to change his approach from 2021 to 2022. He was mostly a high-contact/low-strikeout batter but hit for more power and less contact this past season. Gutierrez isn’t known for his power, but he hit a dozen home runs with a .154 isolated slugging percentage, but do keep in mind that this was at Greensboro. He still had a quality 11.8% walk rate, but his K% rose to 25.4%.
Gutierrez did look better during the summer, as he slashed .259/.364/.436 with a .366 wOBA and 120 wRC+ from June through the end of the year. He walked more often with a 12.9% BB%, but his K% was still a tad high at 23.4%. He hit for a .177 isolated slugging percentage, which at least helps offset some of his strikeouts.
FanGraphs is still hopeful he can rebound, given his swinging strike rate of just 10% (for reference, guys like Cedric Mullins, Alec Bohm, and Gio Urshela had a swinging strike rate between 9.5% and 10%). He also showed plus defense behind the dish. FanGraphs praises his framing and his ability to move his hands as a backstop. Plus, he caught just over a quarter of attempted base stealers (25.9% caught stealing rate).
The outlook for Gutierrez is something like a Jose Iglesias with the bat (maybe with a slightly higher OBP, given he seems to draw walks at a more frequent rate) and Jonah Heim with the glove (+8 DRS and +9.1 framing runs). But the Pirates certainly have their fair share of catching talent. Endy Rodriguez needs no introduction, having produced the best numbers in recent Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league history and becoming one of baseball’s premier prospects. Henry Davis is right up there with him, with immense offensive upside, and is also considered one of the best catching prospects in the sport.
Of course, catching is a position you need depth at. Plus, Gutierrez and Rodriguez can move around the diamond. Gutierrez started to get familiar with first base early this season when Greensboro had him, Rodriguez, and Davis all on the same team. Rodiguez also started to get familiar with second base to make room for Gutierrez and Davis early in the season. Plus, Endy can play first base and some corner outfield. Even Davis started to see a few games in right field in the last week of 2022, as he’s easily the worst defender among the Pirates’ top three backstop prospects.
But if Rodriguez proves himself at the major league level next season, and Davis hits well and makes his debut, that leaves Gutierrez in a strange place. Both Henry and Endy take precedence over Abrahan. If the Pirates find an opportunity to trade Gutierrez, they may take it if the return is something that could help the big league team.