Over the next 45 days the staff here at the Fix will profile and predict the fantasy fates of prospects that could – should, in some cases – be closely monitored on the waiver wire or even in the draft room.
For the projection portion of the article, we will try our best to give you projections from all three major projection systems. Those projection systems are: ZiPS, Steamer, and Oliver. Oliver varies from the other two by projecting what a player would accomplish over 600 PA. Obviously, most prospects won’t reach 600 PA, due to various reasons. It can help to pay more attention to the rate stats that are included in order to get a clearer idea of what you’re dealing with in a particular player.
Henry Urrutia was signed for $778,500 out of Haiti in 2012. Urrutia defected from Cuba to Haiti in September 2011. Prior to signing, Urrutia’s last formal playing time was in 2010 in Cuba as he was held out of games following a failed attempt to leave Cuba after the 2010 season. The 6’ 5” 200-lb 27 year old had only 81 games of minor league experience over two levels before his recall last year.
Urrutia is on our preview list because of opportunity more so than being a hallowed prospect praised by all. Remember that fantasy value is maximized at the nexus of skills and opportunity. While Urrutia may lack top 100 prospect skills, he does have an opportunity in the Orioles’ lineup.
Urrutia has sort of been the mystery prospect of 2013. He has natural hitting ability and can spray line drives all over the field. The over-the-fence power is currently below average, but those who like him believe he is still working on creating backspin. Defensively, it is not pretty, and in the games I saw, he misplayed multiple balls in the outfield. Overall, Urrutia may have enough offensive ability to get to the majors, but he lacks an obvious profile and will have to improve his defense to stay in the lineup.
Baseball America puts him seventh in the Orioles top 10 this year and gives him the award for Best Hitter for Average in the O’s system.
Keith Law doesn’t mention Urrutia in his top 100, but did have a bit to say about him around July of last year during the Futures Game. He compares Urrutia’s BP with Miguel Sano:
Baltimore’s Henry Urrutia did nothing during the game, but since I’ve received a lot of questions about him and this was my first look at him, I should mention that his BP was one of the most impressive of all, maybe second only to Miguel Sano’s.
And also gives a fuller picture of Urrutia here:
I mentioned that Baltimore’s Henry Urrutia took a very good BP on Sunday, so here’s some more detail. His approach overall is very quiet, with great balance throughout and more strength in his wrists and forearms than you’d guess based on his lean frame. He rotates his hips well for more power and gets very good extension through the zone. His at-bats in the game weren’t great — small sample, of course — and he’s not a good athlete.
John Sickels has him at fifth in the Orioles organization heading into 2014.
If a picture is worth 1000 words, then this GIF is that. It’s Urrutia tripling in front of his now teammate (and competition for a spot in the starting lineup) David Lough.
As you can see, Urrutia looks like an athlete until he takes a step and then you can see he lumbers (to put it kindly) around the base paths at what would be assumed to be top speed. One can only imagine him roaming around an outfield somewhere butchering fly balls.
Minor League Production
Urrutia’s short track record shows some disturbing trends (shrinking ISO, rising K% rates). All samples are so small as to not be able to draw any relevant conclusions, but these are things to be aware of in 2014 (stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs).
The Orioles sent Urrutia to the Arizona Fall League to get more at bats and he was solid against younger competition that had more than likely played a full season of baseball already.
The systems don’t have a lot of data to go on, so the projections are all over the place. Urrutia didn’t walk in 58 plate appearances in the big league last year so we’ll see if the plate discipline scouts have seen comes to fruition. His shrinking power is also a concern and we’ll need to watch that during the early parts of 2014.
Urrutia’s value is almost completely tied up in what happens in spring training. With the signing of Nelson Cruz last week, there is one less spot in the Orioles every day lineup for Urrutia to occupy. Right now, it is assumed he is battling David Lough, Steve Pearce, Nolan Reimold, Delmon Young and Francisco Peguero for the left field spot.
I believe the battle is really Lough v. Urrutia as the others are right-hander hitters that would occupy the short side of a platoon. And that is likely a question of offense (Urrutia) v. defense (Lough). If the O’s want defense in left field, then Lough is the answer. If they can deal with average or below average defense in left then Urrutia should be the answer. MLBDepthCharts has Urrutia in AAA for now, but things can change and spring will be as important to Urrutia as any other player on the O’s roster.
My prediction is that Urrutia heads back to AAA for some seasoning and is the first call up should an injury hit. The Orioles traded for Lough and I think they’d like to see what they got. I believe Urrutia’s ceiling is about one half a season of full playing time and his floor is that he doesn’t see the majors at all. If he gets a half season, I can see him hitting .275 with very little else. He should see between 5 and 8 HRs and perhaps 40 RBIs with no SBs. He can help in average, but it will likely be an empty average devoid of meaning or significance.