Prospect Retro: Juan Uribe
Per reader request, a prospect retro for Juan Uribe.
Uribe was signed by the Rockies as a free agent in 1997, out of the Dominican Republic. He made his pro debut that year, hitting .269 with a .321 SLG in 65 games in the Dominican Summer League.
Moved up to the Arizona Rookie League in '98, Uribe hit .277 with a .351 SLG at the age of 18. At this point, he was considered a "good field/might not hit" guy, though young enough to improve substantially.
Uribe went to full-season ball in '99, hitting .267/.307/.409 with nine homers for Class A Asheville, showing more power than expected. He got rave reviews for his glovework. Although he made 38 errors, his range, hands, and arm strength impressed scouts. I gave him a Grade C+ in the 2000 book, writing that he "won't be in the majors soon but is worth watching in the long term."
Promoted to Salem in the Carolina League for 2000, he hit .256/.314/.410 with 13 homers and 22 steals. His power was gradually improving, although his strike zone judgment still needed work. He made massive progress on defense, cutting his error rate in half, and leading the league in fielding percentage, while continuing to impress with his range and arm strength. I gave him another Grade C+, pending further offensive development, but I liked his "youth, defensive skills, and power/speed combination."
Uribe began 2001 in Double-A, but was promoted to the majors after just three games to cover shortstop in place of the injured Neifi Perez. He hit well enough that the Rockies sent him to Triple-A rather than Double-A once Perez came back. Uribe hit .310/.343/.530 in 74 games for Colorado Springs. When Perez was dumped on Kansas City, Uribe received a promotion and was handed the shortstop job for the second half. He hit .300/.325/.524 in 72 games. His home/road split was sharp: .336 at home, .269 on the road, although he did hit five of his eight homers on the road. He impressed scouts with his range and arm strength, but had trouble concentrating at times and made some sloppy errors.
Opening 2002 as the regular shortstop, Uribe played in 155 games, but hit a paltry .240/.286/.341, obviously unacceptable production, especially playing half his games at Coors. Poor plate discipline was the main culprit, as the pitchers learned that he would chase stuff out of the strike zone and he didn't have the bat speed to adjust. He had further problems in 2003, hitting .253/.297/.427. The Rockies gave up on him at that point and shipped him to Chicago.
Uribe anchors the middle infield for the White Sox. Although he was less effective offensively in '05 compared to '04, at age 25 he still has some room to grow. His strikeout rate dropped this year while his walk rate increased slightly. Because of his weak OBP, he's not a guy who can be counted on as a major part of the offense. But his glovework, combined with the pop he does provide, makes him valuable overall. . .you can't count on him as one of your stars, but he's a perfect complementary player if you have strong bats at other positions.
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His major league performance is not out of line with his minor league numbers, and it is apparent that the Rockies gave up on him too quickly. I think Uribe will stay around this level of production for the next six or seven years: .250-.260, OBP between .300 and .320, SLG between .420 and .440. He strikes me as the type who might have one really outstanding season where he hits .290 with 25 homers or something, then returns to his previous level of performance.