Hit (30) Power (50) Arm (50) Defense (45) Speed (30)
Taylor Gushue was Pittsburgh’s 4th round pick (131st overall) in the 2014 draft after a successful career at the University of Florida and signed for $388,800. Born in December 1993, the 23-year-old Gushue was acquired by Washington last September in exchange for infielder Chris Bostick. Listed at 6-1 215lbs, Gushue has an ideal catcher’s frame, with thick legs and a powerful upper-body. Far from the stereotypical base-clogging catcher, Gushue is a good athlete with below-average speed, posting 4.35-4.37 second times home to first from the left side. Finally Gushue possesses excellent makeup, constantly hustling and actively encouraging his pitchers.
Behind the dish Gushue possesses a quick release and good accuracy, allowing his solid-average throwing arm to “play up”. He is a quality athlete with the strength and durability to catch every day. He has quick, nimble feet and does a reasonable job blocking pitches in the dirt. Gushue displays soft hands and tries to frame pitches near the strike zone, but does have a tendency to stab at the ball on occasion. He does not have stellar natural tools, but his hustle, baseball instincts and sheer desire allow him to project as a fringe-average major league defender.
Offensively the switch-hitting Gushue shows a mature approach at the plate and a solid awareness of the strike zone. He will work the count and hunts fastballs early. Gushue has average to fringe-average bat speed and a relatively flat, linear swing. In spite of this, his notable strength and use of his lower half allows him to generate impressive power in batting practice and average game power. Gushue struggles with spin late in counts and is susceptible to velocity up in the zone, which creates plenty of strikeouts. These swing issues aside, Gushue projects as a “30” hitter with “50” power.
Gushue is a terrific example of a “change of scenery” player – after languishing for a few seasons in the Pittsburgh organization, he has re-emerged as a prospect this season for Washington. His lack of an above-average tool limits his ceiling, but his raw power, switch-hitting ability and strong work ethic gives him a chance at a major league career. Gushue has a ceiling as a top-quality backup catcher, with his likely outcome being a Triple-A catcher who acts as an organization’s third catcher.
Future Grades Hit (45) / Power (40) / Speed (45) / Arm (60) / Defense (55)
Signed as an international free agent in 2013 for $30,000, Gutierrez was originally a shortstop before he outgrew the position and shifted to the hot corner. A right-handed hitter and thrower, the 23-year-old Gutierrez (born August 1994) owns a lean 6-3 185lbs frame with the potential to add significant muscle mass in the future. Gutierrez is an intriguing athlete with fringe-average speed, consistently clocking 4.33-4.36 second times home to first.
Defensively Gutierrez is quite impressive at third base, flashing soft hands, quality first-step quickness, along with an above-average to plus arm. Interestingly, I have seen him make a handful of outstanding plays, yet he will occasionally struggle on the routine one and commit an error. The primary cause is he will get lethargic with his footwork, which will cause an erratic, errant throw. However, this should correct itself with additional game experience and maturation. Gutierrez profiles as a future, above-average defender at the hot corner.
At the plate the right-handed hitting Gutierrez possesses noticeable bat speed in a rather lengthy swing. He shows a natural ability to put the bat on the ball and flashes raw power in batting practice that has yet to translate to game action. There is natural loft and leverage in his swing path however, so one can envision him developing more power in the future. I have noticed some balance issues during his swing and worry he is susceptible to spin low-and-away, which causes him some swing-and-miss. While he needs repetitions and refinement, Gutierrez has a chance to become a fringe-average hitter with some below-average raw power.
Gutierrez is yet another example of the job the Nationals’ Latin American staff have done uncovering promising, slightly older, talents for relatively smaller signing bonuses. He possesses one plus tool, his arm, but there is a chance he develops five fringe-average or better tools. Although his power will be light for the hot corner, Gutierrez has a ceiling of a below-average starting third baseman, with the likely outcome being a quality Triple-A player or bench contributor.
Baez was signed by Washington in April 2014 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic for only $7,500. Born in December 1994, the 22-year-old Baez is a projectable athlete listed at 6-3 190lbs, with room to add another 10-15lbs of muscle. Baez starts from the extreme left side of the rubber and utilizes a simple sidestep into a letter-high leg lift before going home. There is extraneous movement in his windup, which hinders his ability to repeat his delivery. Baez throws from a traditional 3/4s arm slot and is closed at foot strike, causing some natural deception to the hitter. However, this also hampers his control and command, which are presently below-average or worse. His arm swing is relatively smooth and there is little to medium effort involved in his motion.
Presently Baez possesses a 3-pitch repertoire, featuring a 91-93mph (touching 95mph) fastball, a mid-80s changeup and a 78-82mph curveball. He prioritizes keeping the fastball down in the zone and it has natural cutting movement. It also creates plenty of whiffs and could be a future “55” offering. His curveball is loopy and he struggles with both feel and commanding the pitch. He noticeably slows his body and arm to assist the torque of the pitch, which is easily seen by the hitter. At best the pitch is a “30” and there is little reason to think it improves without significant tinkering – He might benefit going to a slider. Finally his changeup is firm but thrown with reasonable arm speed. He uses it well against left-handed hitters to keep them honest, but he needs better control and feel for the changeup before it grades better than below-average.
Baez is a bit of a scouting conundrum, as his projectable body and impressive fastball make him an interesting prospect, yet his off-speed stuff makes steak tartare look well-done. His age and athleticism give some reason for optimism, but I worry Baez is a loose athlete with a good fastball and not enough else. Baez might be a “change of scenery” prospect who needs an organization that specializes teaching the curveball. If he can develop an off-speed offering to compliment his fastball, he projects as a 7th inning reliever, with his likely outcome being a long-term minor league starter.
Hit (40+) Power (20) Arm (50+) Defense (50) Run (50+)
Signed by Washington in April 2012 as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic, Osvaldo Abreu is a right-handed hitting, right-handed throwing middle infielder. Born in June 1994, the 23-year-old Abreu is listed at 6-0 170lbs with a lean, wiry frame and projects to add future muscle mass. Abreu is a slightly above-average runner, clocking 4.18 – 4.2 seconds home to first. In addition, he has quality first-step quickness and solid athleticism.
Offensively Abreu possesses loose wrists and impressive bat speed, whipping the barrel through the strike zone with a compact swing. Abreu has a mature approach, works the count and will draw his share of walks while aggressively hunting fastballs. He has feel for the barrel, obvious hand-eye coordination and utilizes the whole field. Unfortunately his lack of strength and linear swing limits his overall home run power. Abreu struggles with spin moving away from him, causing an elevated strikeout rate. This could improve with experience, but the lack of power limits his offensive profile. Abreu projects as a future .230 – .240 hitter who hits a handful of home runs annually.
In the field Abreu has an average or slightly better arm with good accuracy and soft hands. He has good athleticism, a solid first-step and quality actions at shortstop. He has solid range for the position and moves fluidly in each direction. Abreu struggles making the play deep at shortstop due to his lack of arm strength and will make the occasional unforced error. Abreu has the tools to be an average major league defender but his lack of plus athleticism or arm strength limits him; he profiles better at second base.
Abreu is an intriguing middle infield prospect who possesses three average or better tools, yet his lack of power or a plus tool limits his overall ceiling. Unless he can transform his physique to add strength, Abreu’s ceiling is a utility infielder, with his likely outcome being a Triple-A middle infielder who perhaps sees the majors if injuries arise.