While I have no idea where the old afterthought that was Franklin Gutierrez disappeared to, I’m pretty sure many Fantasy owners won’t mind keeping this version of him around for at least the next three or four weeks.
Yes, we’re talking about that Franklin Gutierrez, who once upon a time teased us with a .283-18-70 season with the Mariners in 2009; one that came with 16 steals. Yes, that same Gutierrez who had 25 steals the following season despite falling to .245-12-64 before becoming the kind of roster fodder that even deep AL-only leagues avoided like endless Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump talk on CNN (see, our ears are fair and balanced) the following three seasons while he managed just 15 homers and 60 RBI over 173 games.
Yet, there’s a player who kinda looks like him and shares his last name that is laying waste to AL pitchers since the All-Star break and is coming off a month in which the alleged Gutierrez hit .339-7-20 with a 1.130 OPS. Regardless of whether this is the same player or one who popped out of a space pod in the vacant parking lots of Safeco Field in mid-July, owners might want to hop on board before this version has to make a hasty return to whatever galaxy Gutierrez arrived from.
With nearly 17 percent ownership, Gutierrez has enjoyed the kind of popular Fantasy surge he hasn’t experienced since someone banked on his ‘09 season as the springboard to Starling Marte-like production. That number probably added a few more hangers-on after Gutierrez swatted his tenth post-ASB bomb in Tuesday’s win over the Astros (you know, that same team from Houston that was supposed to be looking up at the Mariners in the AL West standings when the season started, but we digress). While he still serves as a fourth outfielder of sorts, we feel that will change as Seattle plays out the string, which will give Gutierrez enough at-bats to maintain his current monster streak and will keep him hitting steady like Godzilla or eventually go Cloverfield and fizzle under the weight of the hype.
(I know, I know: Cloverfield was a bad movie that exposes motion sickness. Try watching it on a flight from Houston to Portland. In two words, not fun. At least we got the beautiful and talented Lizzy Caplan out of it, so there’s some good in a movie that would probably get your clock cleaned by J.J. Abrams if you brought it up to him.)
So, where is this coming from?
Peruse his Fangraphs page and the one thing that keeps me coming back is his line drive rate. Seems like Gutierrez may have settled down and stopped trying to hit everything to the Alaskan border while also feeling a giddy sensation that comes from hearing the umpire say “ball four.” His current line drive rate is at 22.2 percent, which exceeds the 19.4 rate he had during his supposed breakout season in ‘09. Gutierrez has a 1.33 groundball/fly ball ratio which also compares favorably with the 1.25 GB/FB ratio he had in 2009. If you look at his line drive rate from 2010 to 2014, one can see a regression that leads directly to a lot of groundballs….a lot of ground balls, as his 47.6 percent rate in 2011 shows.
Gutierrez remains a free-swinger (27 percent whiff rate), yet he’s shown a tad more patience. His walk rate, which was at 7.3 percent in ‘09, has dipped to 6.6 percent but it’s light years from the 3.3 percent mark he had in 2013, at which point we had all come to grips with the fact that he’d remain in the Mariners system as long as he held damning photos of front office personnel. Currently owning a 1.9 WAR, Gutierrez can shut it down today and still be assured of his best total in that category since 2010.
Look, maybe it’s just a case of a 32-year-old player who puts it together long enough to remind us what might have been, or perhaps this signals a two or three year run in which he mauls lefty pitching well enough to earn 250-300 ABs a season. But for now, take Gutierrez’s run as one that can spark a mixed league team long enough to make a difference in both homers and ribbies. If it so happens that Gutierrez reverts back to form next season, we’ll always have the treasured memories of late summer 2015…..
The waiver wire still has its bat and glove for another couple of weeks before we make like Bo Jackson and don the helmet and shoulder pads. In the meantime, let’s remember there are more than a few Franklin Gutierrez-like performers out there:
Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Cubs: Despite injuries and the tragic death of his sister, Baez also shook off a slow start to his demotion to Triple-A to hit 17 homers while stealing 13 bases. The Cubs know they can do better than Tommy La Stella at second, which means Baez, owned in nearly 20 percent of polled leagues after watching a leap from just over three percent ownership, will get plenty of September plate appearances. The jaw-dropping power and blinding bat speed are givens; what many Fantasy owners are counting on is both facets of his game making more than the token showings in March that led to his surprising ticket to the minors.
Cameron Rupp, C, Phillies: More Todd Pratt than Kyle Schwarber, Rupp should see a tick up in his six percent ownership now that he’s replaced Carlos Ruiz as the starting backstop. At 6’2”, 258 lbs., Rupp looks like he should be Kevin Owens’ partner in pursuit of the WWE tag-team belts. But after an August in which he batted .310 with seven homers and 17 RBIs, he’s looking well-suited for deeper mixed leagues looking for a September surprise behind the plate.
Michael Conforto, OF, Mets: At one point early last month, the Mets talked about sending down their top prospect, yet that changed when Conforto settled in and became a more patient hitter. After hitting .317-4-11 in August, Conforto also entered this month with a .392 OBP, as the Mets have done a good job of keeping him away from lefties. Owned in ten percent of polled leagues, Conforto is a good choice in leagues that use OBP as a category. You’ll also want to keep him in mind for 2016, when he should continue to develop enough power to make him a popular sleeper in most leagues.
Rick Porcello, P, Red Sox: Yes, that was Porcello striking out a month’s worth of hitters on Tuesday, as he fanned 13 Yankees (and yes, that was the 2015 Red Sox in a nutshell after they squandered one of the team’s best pitching efforts of the season in the loss). Destined for so much more at the beginning of April, Porcello’s lousy pitching and subsequent injury leaves him at 15 percent ownership in polled leagues, yet he’s allowed just one earned run in his two starts since returning from the DL. Don’t stare too hard into his 5.21 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, as Porcello could put together a strong enough closing kick to merit consideration if your starters are beginning to show signs of tapping out.
Scott Feldman, P, Astros: Yeah, let’s ignore that 59-pitch first inning Feldman conjured up on Tuesday. Prior to that, Feldman had not allowed more than two runs in a start since July 31, so perhaps he was due. Owned in 14 percent of polled leagues, Feldman’s experienced arm will see continued work as the Astros close in on the AL West title, as he also provides the team a buffer from keeping the arms of youngsters Lance McCullers and Vincent Velasquez from being overworked. Don’t expect too many strikeouts from Feldman, but he will keep your ERA and WHIP at reasonable levels the rest of the way.
Kelby Tomlinson, SS/2B, Giants: The Giants’ postseason push didn’t flinch upon the loss of 2B Joe Panik. The organization simply called up Tomlinson, who has plugged and played his way to a solid .313 average with a homer and 13 RBIs since his call up from Triple-A. Like Panik, Tomlinson doesn’t have a lot of pop, but he does have 70 steals in the past two seasons in the minors, and while that facet of his game has yet to appear, Tomlinson (owned in five percent of polled leagues) has good stealth potential in deeper leagues once he starts running.