Zoning in on Franklin Gutiérrez


Zoning in on the 2016 Mariners is a daily series in which we’ll examine one player every day, 30 total, in the lead-up to Opening Day. We’ll explain their role on the field, what they’re like off of it and provide highlights and photos. On deck tomorrow: James Paxton.

Franklin Gutiérrez‘s story is an unbelievably compelling one. To battle back from his ailments— an illness that forced him out of baseball completely in 2014—and contribute in a significant way in 2015 was an incredible feat.

But one of the most interesting aspects of it all is the transformation he’s made as a player.

When Gutiérrez was acquired from the Indians prior to the 2009 season, it was as a defensive ace—another in the line of strong center fielders to roam Safeco Field. He did that and then some. According to the numbers, UZR specifically, it was the best defensive year a center fielder had put up since 2002, and has since.

He was as good as they come, with that “Death to Flying Things” nickname very appropriate.

Last year, he was a completely different player, manning corner outfield spots in a mostly part-time role. In that limited time, he made the most of it, particularly in terms of power.

Gutiérrez swatted 15 home runs in only 189 plate appearances. He hit a home run every 11.4 at-bats, second in baseball behind only Giancarlo Stanton. He was also second in the league in slugging percentage for players who had at least 180 plate appearances, behind only Bryce Harper.

By OPS, he was the Mariners best hitter in 2015, ahead of even Nelson Cruz as Guti notched a .974. That figure is actually in the top 15 ever for a season in Mariners history. And going back to slugging percentage, only three Mariners have ever put up a number higher than Gutiérrez’s .620: Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Edgar Martinez.

Now, it should again be acknowledged this was in a limited number of at-bats, but that was intentional—and it’s how it’ll work going forward, with him likely platooning with Seth Smith in a corner outfield spot.

“He’s coming off of just a tremendous year, and I think we might have found a sweet spot for Franklin right now, in just the way he’s used, the way he’s asked to contribute, and just understanding how to manage his own personal situation,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said after re-signing Gutiérrez this offseason.

So far, it’s looking good, as Gutiérrez is picking up right where he left off, homering four times so far in Cactus League play and putting up a whopping 1.511 OPS.

“I’m feeling good,” Gutiérrez said. “It’s not easy, but I know what my body needs to do now.”

Off the Field

Franklin Gutiérrez does a bit of DJing in his free time and, while it’s an activity off the field, it’s something that does sometimes make its way onto it.

Gutiérrez is a native of Venezuela, like Felix Hernandez, and the two are very close friends. Here’s a shot of them from last year, from Felix’s Instagram.

Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 3.29.10 PM







More in the Zoning In on the 2016 Mariners Series:

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