June 4, 2009

Gutierrez and Burnett head to New Britain

A day after we learned that Rob Delaney was being promoted to Triple-A Rochester, Seth Stohs of Seth Speaks reported that the Twins have promoted two more pitchers to different teams. 22-year-old Carlos Gutierrez and 21-year-old Alex Burnett will head to New Britain to give the Rock Cats 24 active players (12 pitchers). Both right-handers have had their roles switched from a year ago, but both are seeing great success.

This move is somewhat surprising to do the Twins' reluctance to move other (deserving) players throughout the system. But that's not to say both players didn't deserve the promotion. Because on the contrary, both did deserve it.

Burnett has been in Ft. Myers since the start of the 2008 season.
Although he's been young for his level of player throughout his career, he's managed to put up good numbers. He's 27-20 with a 3.48 in 441 2/3 innings pitched. Burnett was drafted out of Ocean View High School in California. He throws a fastball in the low-90's and also features a curveball and change-up. He has handled the transition to the bullpen well this season, posting a 1.99 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings pitched. He spent the majority of the season as the Ft. Myers Miracle closer and has maintained his good control despite the transition. He also sports a great 1.96 FIP. Burnett doesn't light up the radar gun, but he may have a brighter future as a reliever than as a starter.

In his first appearance in Double-A, Burnett came into the game with a runner on second base and one out. He then made both Connecticut Defender hitters strike out swinging to end the inning and help keep the Rock Cats within one run. The Rock Cats later scored two runs in the top of the 9th inning to steal the win, thanks in large part to Burnett.

Gutierrez is quite different than Burnett. He is a college pitcher in just his second season of professional baseball (first full season) making the transition from reliever to starter. He also throws in the high-90's and doesn't feature the same caliber of secondary pitches that Burnett does. And while Burnett induces more groundball outs opposed to flyball outs, it's not nearly as large of a margin as Gutierrez. Gutierrez induced 103 ground balls this season opposed to just 23 flyball outs which gives him a 4.48 GB/FB ratio. That's quite a bit higher than Burnett's 1.33 GB/FB ratio.

Gutierrez has emerged as one of the Twins top pitching prospects this season, something many wouldn't have predicted when he was drafted a year ago. When the Twins drafted him, he had a couple warning signs to potential teams. He had recently undergone Tommy John surgery. And he also only really features one pitch, a fastball.

Well he's had no ill-effect from his July-2006 surgery and even jokes about getting the surgery, "even if you don't need it." And as for that fastball, well that's been his 'bread-and-butter pitch' and has had great success thus far with it. It's gained attention around the Minor Leagues and is considered one of the best fastballs 'not in the Major Leagues.' He'll need to continue to develop his secondary pitches, but the Twins obviously feel strong enough about him and his fastball to have had him skip both Rookie Ball and Single-A. And now having just thrown 80 1/3 innings in the Florida State League, Gutierrez will move up to face stiffer competition in the Eastern League.

Both of these players were featured in my Top 50 Twins Prospect list prior to the start of the season. Burnett came in at #23 while Gutierrez came in at #18. These moves will certainly not be the last. With the draft approaching quickly, the Twins will continue to shuffle players throughout the system.