O's Urrutia could be the next Cuban sensation
Outfielder showing his hitting acumen in first season of professional baseball
Orioles prospect Henry Urrutia may not have the same panache and sizzle as fellow Cuban outfielders Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler. But without a doubt, Urrutia can play the game of baseball.
Uruttia made his initial attempt to flee Cuba in 2010. After the attempt failed, he tried again and was successful the following year, arriving in Haiti in September 2011.
After a lengthy delay getting the proper authorization to leave Haiti, Urrutia signed with the Orioles.
He began his professional baseball career this season, playing at Double-A Bowie. In 52 games, Urrutia hit .365 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs. He struck out only 36 times in 224 plate appearances.
His performance earned him a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk in late June. He has played six games through Thursday and is hitting .227, but the ball is jumping off his bat. He's just not finding the holes.
The 26-year-old Urrutia has an outstanding physical presence. Tall and lanky at 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Urrutia has extremely long arms and legs. He uses his size to his advantage. For example, his plate coverage is outstanding. Pitchers trying to keep the ball outside will be punished by his quick, measured stroke that takes the pitch where it is thrown. He has well developed line-drive power to both the left-center and right-center alleys.
Urrutia's hitting tools will be the factor that initially advances his career. Ultimately, as he gets used to his new environment and learns the abilities of pitchers here, I believe he will develop home run power.
It is easy to see that Urrutia, whose father Ermidelio played professional baseball in Cuba, is far from being a raw rookie. His mechanics and his approach are seasoned and advanced.
Urrutia knows the strike zone well and has the discipline to lay off pitches too high to reach or beyond his comfort level as a hitter. His hands are quick, and he uses his forearms and wrists to direct the path of the ball. His bat control, and the fact that he hits the ball extremely hard, help make him a hitter to be respected and feared.
A switch-hitter in the past, Urrutia now bats exclusively left-handed.
Defensively, Urrutia is playing right field for Norfolk. I agree he is best suited as a corner outfielder, but in my opinion he projects best as a left fielder. He has good first-step quickness with long strides. His arm is Major League average.
Urrutia doesn't have blazing speed, but he advances bases with good instincts and a polished sliding technique.
The Orioles named Urrutia their Minor League Player of the Month for June. He's had a great beginning to his career in the United States.
I look for Urrutia to be in Baltimore before this season ends. He has the tools and the experience to help the Orioles as an outfielder or designated hitter.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.