Base pay = $1.5 million
200 PA = $2.0 million
250 PA = $2.5 million
300 PA = $3.0 million
350 PA = $3.5 million
400 PA = $4.0 million
450 PA = $4.5 million
500 PA = $5.0 million
550 PA = $5.75 million
Gutierrez has had an injury-riddled career. He missed all of the 2014 season and had six stints on the disabled list from 2011 to 2013. Over those three seasons, he averaged just under 58 games per year and was not particularly good when he did play, hitting .238/.276/.363 in 658 plate appearances.
According to Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement, Gutierrez had his best year in 2009. He hit .283/.339/.425, which was better than league average, and was incredible in the field. He had career highs in games played, hits, runs, home runs, and RBI, and was worth six wins above replacement. A 6 WAR player is a superstar. Last year, Andrew McCutchen and Jason Heyward were outfielders at the 6 WAR level. Half of Gutierrez' value in 2009 came from his fielding and fielding statistics are less reliable than hitting, so you could take that 6 WAR total with a grain of salt. Even if you discount his fielding some because of the uncertainty, he was still very likely at the All-Star level.
Of course, that 2009 season was a long time ago and Gutierrez is not the player now that he was then. In fact, it’s very difficult to know who Gutierrez is these days. After being a below-average hitter for the first nine years of his career, then missing an entire season, Gutierrez came back in 2015 and hit much, much better than he ever had before: .292/.354/.620 with 15 home runs in just 189 plate appearances. He only played about one-third of the season, but his 167 wRC+ suggests he was 67% better than league average on offense. He wasn’t the great fielder he’d once been but he also wasn’t a Nelson Cruz or Mark Trumbo disaster either.
Looking forward to the 2016 season, it’s very difficult to know what Franklin Gutierrez will do. Most projection systems look at what a player has done over the previous three seasons (some use more) and apply a weighting system that puts more emphasis on the recent years. In the case of Franklin Gutierrez, we have 189 major league plate appearances from 2015, none from 2014, 151 from 2013, and 163 from 2012. Those sample sizes are very small and very different. Consider the numbers:
One of the most basic projections systems is called Marcel and was created by baseball analyst Tom Tango. Marcel uses a simple weighting system that puts more emphasis on recent years, then uses an age factor and regression to the mean to come up with a forecast. Marcel projections can be found at the website Baseball-Reference.com. Here is the Marcel projection for Gutierrez for 2016:
295 PA, 269 AB, 71 H, 37 R, 16 HR, 43 RBI, 3 SB, .264/.321/.506
This appears to be an optimistic projection for Gutierrez, particularly in the power department. Guti has a career slugging percentage of .405 in nearly 3000 plate appearances but the simple Marcel projection system is expecting a .506 slugging percentage for Guti in 2016.
Of course, I did say Gutierrez is a difficult hitter to predict because of his injuries and limited playing time over the last five years. Contrast Gutierrez with one of his teammates, Kyle Seager, who has been remarkably consistent over the last four years, which means his projection has much more reliability than the projection for Gutierrez.
608 PA, 547 AB, 145 H, 71 R, 22 HR, 72 RBI, 6 SB, .265/.331/.446--Marcels projection for Kyle Seager
As I wrote, Marcel is the most basic projection system out there. Fangraphs currently has projections for each player based on a system called Steamer. Steamer uses the basic Marcel methodology, but adds more information and other adjustments to the mix. Seager’s Steamer projection is a little more optimistic in playing time than Marcels but they both expect a similar batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage:
636 PA, 569 AB, 151 H, 77 R, 22 HR, 79 RBI, 7 SB, .265/.332/.443--Steamer projection for Kyle Seager
That seems like a very reasonable projection for Kyle Seager.
So, back to Gutierrez. Here again is his Marcel Projection:
295 PA, 269 AB, 71 H, 37 R, 16 HR, 43 RBI, 3 SB, .264/.321/.506--Marcels projection for Gutierrez
Now take a look at his Steamer projection:
338 PA, 308 AB, 73 H, 36 R, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 2 SB, .237/.294/.400--Steamer projection for Gutierrez
They are quite different. The Marcel projection expects Gutierrez to be much better than average on offense, with substantially more power and better on-base skills than is expected by the Steamer projection. The Steamer projection is much closer to what Gutierrez has done over his entire career. In fact, it’s a little worse than his career numbers. At the age of 33 next season, this is not an unreasonable expectation.
One bit of information I haven’t mentioned yet is the production from Gutierrez at AAA last season. With the Tacoma Rainiers, Gutierrez hit .317/.402/.500, with a .379 BABIP in 209 plate appearances. Those are great numbers and match up well with Gutierrez’ major league projection last year. This adds another recent 209 plate appearances to the mix. Does this mean Gutierrez will reach his optimistic Marcel projection? It’s hard to say. I’m more inclined to agree with Steamer but the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.