The Royals announced Monday that they’ve designated infielder Kelvin Gutierrez for assignment and selected the contract of fellow infielder Emmanuel Rivera from Triple-A Omaha. Rivera, who’ll be making his MLB debut, is batting sixth in tonight’s lineup and manning the hot corner.
Gutierrez, 26, was acquired from the Nationals back in the 2018 trade that sent righty Kelvin Herrera from K.C. to D.C. At the time of the swap, Gutierrez was arguably the top prospect headed back to Kansas City — a potentially plus defender at third base with above-average power but questions about his hit tool. His development, unfortunately, hasn’t rounded out as hoped.
The Royals gave Gutierrez a look in each of the past three seasons, but he’s mustered only a .226/.275/.309 slash through 223 Major League plate appearances. He’s posted a .289/.364/.429 slash in 84 Triple-A games as well, although given the hitter-friendly nature of that setting, that output checks in at roughly league average, per wRC+. Gutierrez hasn’t been as strong defensively as expected at third base, either; he’s committed a dozen errors in 490 innings at third base while logging below-average marks in Defensive Runs Saved, Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average.
That said, Gutierrez can be optioned for the remainder of the 2021 season and has been an average or better hitter at nearly every minor league stop. He’ll turn 27 two months from now, but another club in need of some depth at third base could take a mostly free look at this point. The Royals have a week to trade Gutierrez or attempt to pass him through outright waivers.
Rivera’s call to the big leagues serves as an early birthday present, as he’ll turn 25 tomorrow. He’s spent the season with Triple-A Omaha and posted a .282/.337/.593 batting line with 14 home runs, 11 doubles and a triple so far in 193 plate appearances. He doesn’t walk much (6.2 percent in 2021) but also has a seemingly manageable strikeout rate (22.3 percent).
Rivera as a mid-range prospect for the Royals heading into the 2019 season, but a forgettable .258/.297/.345 (79 wRC+) performance in Double-A caused him to fall off most organizational rankings. This is the most productive season of his career so far, however, and he’ll now get a chance to carry it over to the big league level for a Royals club that can afford him ample playing time.