The Cincinnati Reds made a quiet minor league free agent signing in late January. The team signed Angelo Gumbs to a free agent deal after he had spent 2010-2015 in the New York Yankees system. The signing was largely unreported, as most minor league deals are, but particularly in this case as Gumbs had a career OPS under .640 over his six-year career.
The 23-year-old was a 2nd round draft pick by the Yankees in the 2010 draft and signed for $750,000. Coming out of the draft, he was considered a potential 5-tool player, but a player who was considered extremely raw at the plate.
In his first full season, 2011, the then 18-year-old hit .264/.332/.406 for short-season Staten Island. He followed that up with a .272/.320/.432 line with Low-A Charleston in the South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old. Things fell apart in the following season though. He was promoted to Advanced-A and posted a .567 OPS before being demoted in the second half where his struggles continued. Coming back to the South Atlantic League he managed a .612 OPS in the second half, well below where he was at the previous season.
In 2014 he returned to Advanced-A and continued to struggle, posting a .599 OPS with just 18 walks and 97 strikeouts. In 2015 it was more of the same as Gumbs managed a .437 OPS for Tampa in 59 games.
After the season he was not re-signed by the Yankees and tested the free agent waters. The Reds took a gamble on the former second rounder who still showed good tools but was a bit limited on the skills. In spring training there were rumblings about how he had been performing in the spring at the end of March, but given his history I remained skeptical.
Fast forward 11 games into the season and the 23-year-old infielder has posted this line: .405/.468/.595 with five extra-base hits, four walks and nine strikeouts in 47 plate appearances. In 202 plate appearances in the same league last season, Gumbs managed just five extra-base hits and 11 walks. Small sample size caveat alert and all, he’s clearly doing something very difference than what he’s done in the past.
While Gumbs has flashed five average or better tools throughout his minor league career, the one thing that has constantly drawn rave reviews is his outstanding bat speed. It’s been an elite skill that he’s shown since he signed, but it has always come with an asterisk. The bat is insanely quick when it gets moving, but there’s always been notes that there’s way too much going on before he gets going and that it’s held back just how well he’s been able to use the bat speed.
It’s very early in the season, and this could be nothing more than a hot streak and given his history, caution should certainly be exercised here – but maybe the Cincinnati Reds and Angelo Gumbs have worked together and made some needed adjustments at the plate and he’s figured something out. The early returns are certainly there and he’s always had the raw tools that simply needed to be developed.