The Baltimore Orioles will promote rookie outfielder Henry Urrutia to the major league roster today, as noted by Camden Chat and many other sources. Urrutia is an unusual prospect to say the least, and our subject for today's Prospect of the Day.
Urrutia comes from a baseball family: his father Ermidelio Urrutia was a successful power hitter for the Cuban national team for many years, was a gold medalist in the 1992 Olympics, and later became a manager. His son Henry inherited the family talent, played for the Cuban national team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, and was a strong player in the Serie Nacional himself, hitting .365/.456/.513 in 2008-2009 and .397/.461/.597 in 2009-10.
He was suspended in 2010-2011 after a defection attempt, then finally made it to Haiti in the fall of 2011. He signed with the Orioles last July for $778,500, but visa complications prevented him from taking the field until this past spring.
He's had no difficulty at all with North American competition, hitting .365/.433/.550 in 52 games for Double-A Bowie, followed by a .367/.406/.467 mark in 15 games since being promoted to Triple-A Norfolk. Overall he's hitting .365/.427/.531 with seven homers, 20 doubles, 28 walks, and 42 strikeouts in 288 professional plate appearances.
Urrutia is a 6-5, 200 pounder, born February 13, 1987 in Las Tunas, Cuba. He was originally a switch-hitter, but has hit exclusively from the left side in the United States; he is a natural right-handed thrower. He has solid-average tools in most respects, with a strong throwing arm his best physical attribute. He's not a blazer and has only stolen one base this year, but he's not a slug either. Despite two years of rust to work off, he shows defensive polish, playing errorless ball this year while showing good range at both outfield corners, seeing most of his action in right field. His arm is strong and accurate and he's picked up eight assists.
Pre-season scouting reports based on his play in Cuba profiled Urrutia as a line drive hitter with gap power and solid plate discipline. He's lived up to those reports. Although not a walk machine, his approach is reasonably disciplined. He's had no problems making contact, can pull the ball, or take something the opposite way. Although he's not likely to be a huge home run hitter, he has respectable pop in his bat and is not easy to overpower.
As you can see from these videos, he has a certain athletic fluidity that stands him in good stead on both offense and defense.
He's reportedly adapting well to North America and there's certainly nothing wrong with his numbers so far.
At age 26, Urrutia doesn't have classic physical projection and may be as good as he's going to get. Perhaps he's just getting lucky with a strong BABIP so far. Or perhaps not: remember, he's tearing up the upper minors despite missing two years of game action. It is certainly plausible that he could improve a bit more as he works the remaining rust off, and it wouldn't surprise me if he has a home run surge at age 27 or 28.
At worst, I think Urrutia will be a viable fourth outfielder, a talented defender at the corners with a lefty bat that can provide a reasonable batting average and OBP. At best, he could be a regular starting corner outfielder who hits .300 with a high OBP, a better-than-expected SLG, and a sharp glove.
It might not happen right away, but Urrutia should not be underestimated. He's done a lot in a short period of time.