Omar Vizquel Prospect Retro
Omar Vizquel was signed by the Seattle Mariners out of Venezuela in 1984. He got into 15 games in the Pioneer League that year at age 17, going 14-for-45 (.311) with two doubles and two steals. The sample was too small to be meaningful, of course. At this stage, Vizquel stood out for his athleticism and defense, but there were doubts about his bat. Grade C?
These doubts grew stronger in 1985 after he hit just .225/.270/.353 in 50 games in the Northwest League for Bellingham. He did hit five homers, but his strike zone judgment was mediocre, and in general his hitting was problematic, granted he was very young. Grade C still.
Moved up to Wausau in the Midwest League in 1986, Vizquel hit just .213 with a .295 SLG. However, while he showed no pop at all, his plate discipline got a lot better: he drew 64 walks against 56 strikeouts, boosting his OBP to .333 despite the low batting average. He also stole 19 bases, doing a better job getting jumps. His glove was strong, and the improvement in his plate discipline was a positive marker. But still. . it's hard to be enthusiastic about a .628 OPS in full-season baseball, no matter how good the glove. Grade C.
Promoted to Salinas in the Cal League for '87, Vizquel hit .263/.350/.332 with 25 steals and a 57/56 BB/K in 407 at-bats. Again, not much power, but a higher average this year and continued solid strike zone judgment along with the glovework. He was making progress, and I could see moving him up to Grade C+.
Up to Double-A in '88, Vizquel hit .254/.328/.329 with 30 steals. Again, he posted a strong BB/K/AB ratio. . .and again there was no power and a mediocre batting average. His glove was really getting noticed now, but it was still unclear whether he'd hit enough to be a regular, or if he'd end up in a utility role. But given the strong defense, I could still see him as a C+.
Vizquel took over at shortstop for the Mariners in 1989, hitting .220/.273/.261. . .horrible hitting, obviously. But he really impressed scouts and coaches with his defense. He hit .247/.295/298 in '90, then .230/.320/.293 in '91. . .very gradual improvement. He started hitting in '92 with a .294/.340/.352 mark, and by the time he got into his late 20s with the Indians, he was a fair hitter who could occasionally be rather dangerous, doing a better job using his speed on the bases and drawing walks. Combine that with consistent Gold Glove caliber defense, and Vizquel has been a mainstay in the middle infield for a long time. Vizquel is essentially Luis Aparacio with a slightly better bat.
Vizquel never hit much in the minors, but the one thing he did do well after the first couple of years was post a solid BB/K/AB ratio. He could control the zone decently; he just needed to get stronger physically. I would have been suspicious enough about his bat to keep his grades in the C-range in all likelihood, simply because so many of these all-glove/no-bat guys fail to pan out as potential regulars. But Omar made it work.