Despite fighting through injuries the last few seasons -- including ankylosing spondylitis, an arthritic condition of the spine or other joints -- Franklin Gutierrez has flashed the ability to look like one of the league's best hitters against left-handed pitching. Though he didn't have a .974 OPS as he did in 2015, he hovered around the top 30 in average exit velocity, per Statcast. Another eye-opener: 47 percent of his contact was of the "hard-hit" variety, per FanGraphs. His career-best 10.2 percent walk rate and stellar .280/.373/.511 slash line against southpaws led the Dodgers to kick the tires and sign him to a one-year contract. The high strikeout rates he's put up in the last three years shouldn't be ignored, which means that .292 average from two years ago looks like an outlier, no matter how hard the heavily pull-leaning hitter connects. The 33-year-old's numerous health woes have made him a below-average defensive option, which makes his undeniable skills against lefties less likely to warrant a large role throughout the season in LA.
Gutierrez went 1-for-2 with with a walk, a double and a run scored in Monday's loss to the White Sox. The veteran slugger got the start against the left-handed Derek Holland on Monday, a role he is expected to serve during the regular season. Gutierrez struggled at the plate early this spring, but that was likely a result of manager Dave Roberts testing the lefty-killer against right-handed pitchers to see if he could hold his own in the event the 34-year-old was needed to fill in for a starter. The results simply weren't there, as Gutierrez slashed just .185/.214/.259 in 28 plate appearances against righties, compared to .231/.375/.538 in 16 plate appearances against lefties. A platoon with Andrew Toles in left field to start the season seems likely at this point.
Gutierrez isn't in danger of losing his spot on the Dodgers' roster, despite having gone just 4-for-31 (.129) over 11 games this spring, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. While his numbers are disappointing, manager Dave Roberts said that they are somewhat justified by the pitchers he's been facing. Gutierrez is expected to serve as a platoon outfielder against left-handed pitching during the 2017 season. Meanwhile, the vast majority of his at-bats during the spring have come against righties (23) while few have been against lefties (eight).
Gutierrez has yet to record a hit in 16 spring training at-bats. The slugging outfielder has struggled mightily with his new club. Gutierrez is currently competing for a role in the Dodgers' outfield, but will have to start stringing some hits together or run the risk of missing the cut. It is noteworthy that 12 of his 16 hitless at-bats have come against righties, so the Dodgers may simply be testing to see if he could handle an everyday role. Based off the early results, a platoon seems like the best-case scenario for Gutierrez to open the season in the majors.
Gutierrez agreed to a one-year, $2.6 million contract with the Dodgers on Friday, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. After seven seasons with the Mariners, Gutierrez now heads to Los Angeles and further crowds the Dodgers' murky outfield picture. Gutierrez's strikeout rate shot up to 30 percent last year, but he can still draw a walk and mash lefties (.280/.373/.511 last season, .289/.351/.495 for career). The soon-to-be 34-year-old is tentatively expected to serve in a platoon role in the outfield corners to begin the 2017 campaign, starting primarily against southpaws.
Gutierrez (eye) is not in the lineup Saturday against the A's, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. Gutierrez has been battling broken blood vessels in his eye, and he's logged just one at-bat over the last five contests. While Gutierrez will likely be available off the bench, it's unclear if he'll be utilized.