Greensboro is a city in the heart of North Carolina, surrounded by forests and lakes, 100 miles away from Charlotte. As for us, Greensboro is the house of the Grasshoppers, the Class-A affiliates of the Miami Marlins.
In this town and in this team there is a former Red Raider, Eric Gutierrez, one of the stars of the team that performed so well in last years under coach Tim Tadlock.
For those not familiar with him, Eric is a 23-years-old first baseman with an intense story of hard work in a poverty environment like the town of McAllen, near the Mexican border. He was only 5-feet-8 (now he is not much more) and his length has always been a problem for his career. In high school, he was a hitting machine but Texas Tech was the only Division-I university to offer him a full scholarship.
In spite of this, Gutierrez continued to play as a first baseman and continued to put up great numbers, helping the Red Raiders to reach their first College World Series appearances in 2014 and 2016.
In this last year, he was also named Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, and the Miami Marlins decided to invest in Eric, drafting him in the 20th round of the MLB draft.
In 2016, the Marlins assigned him to their Short-Season Class-A affiliates Batavia Muckdogs, near Buffalo. In this context, Gutierrez could not fully show his skills, as he stayed for the most part of the season under .200 in AVG.
The final two weeks of the season were finally a positive rebound and he closed his rookie season batting .218, withfive home runs and 34 RBIs. The batting stats were not particularly great, but he demonstrated that he can play as a first baseman, as he committed only six errors and had an honorable fielding percentage of .987.
In 2017, Miami decided to promote him to the Grasshoppers and the results began to come. Gutierrez began to hit for contact better and his stats improved. At the moment he is hitting .279, but he is limiting the strikeouts (only 32 in 179 at bats) and earning many walks with 19. This brought his on-base percentage to .361.
Unfortunately, Eric is still missing some power and he only has three home runs at this point of the season. At the same time, he’s still improving in errors with just three this season, bringing his fielding percentage to .990.
With the help of Gutierrez and an interesting group of prospects, the Greensboro Grasshoppers have a 12-11 record in the second half of the South Atlantic League Northern, only one game back from the Hagerstown Suns (affiliates of the Washington Nationals) and the Hickory Crawdads (Texas Rangers).
In the first half of the year, the division was tightly competitive, as four teams concluded within two games of difference and the Grasshoppers finished in fourth place.
The hunt for the playoffs is open and Gutierrez is called to give prominent help. It would be important not only for this season but also for the future. The Marlins organization is not rich in first basemen, so with a good offensive production there is the real possibility of a climb through the farm system.