Henry Urrutia is the 25-year-old Cuban outfielder the Orioles signed to a $778,500 bonus in July. Urrutia remains in Haiti, awaiting a visa that will allow him to play for a team in the Dominican Winter League. The Orioles had hoped to send Urrutia to Double-A Bowie late last season, but without a visa, that was not possible.
How good is Urrutia? I asked Ben Badler his opinion. Badler covers international player signings for Baseball America. He said it can be difficult to project how Cuban players will do in the United States and one reason for that is the wide range of talent, from mediocre to very good, in the Cuban League.
"(Urrutia) played in Cuba for several years and was one of the better hitters in that league. He hit for a high average and showed some solid power. He has more of a level line drive kind of swing and is a switch-hitter that has some solid contact skills," Badler said.
"The concern with him is, will there be enough power for a corner outfield profile? He might be a fourth outfielder, but you know they didn't have to pay several million to get him. I thought the price they paid for him was reasonable to be able to add a guy that could potentially help them as soon as 2013."
Urrutia played in the Cuban League from 2006-2010 and batted .350 with 72 doubles, nine triples, 33 home runs, 219 RBIs and 209 runs. He also represented Cuba in the 2010 World Championships. Urrutia batted .397 in 305 at-bats in his final season in Cuba. The 6-foot-5, 195-lb. switch-hitter didn't play in 2011 due to a suspension after an unsuccessful attempt at defection.
Badler sees Urrutia as a player that could potentially reach the majors in 2013.
"I think he is probably a guy that could start (2013) in the upper levels of the minors," Badler said. "I could see him starting at Double-A. He has the potential to have some kind of role in the major leagues. I don't necessarily see him as an everyday guy. But for the price they paid, I think it's a reasonable price for a guy who may be a fourth outfielder or a little bit more."
How do the scouts grade Urrutia's raw talents - or tools, as they call them?
"There is no one tool that you would call a carrying tool," Badler said. "There is no 70 or plus-plus tool for him. But he didn't strike out much when he was in Cuba. He's got a pretty level bat path and the hit tool with him is pretty solid. I would say he has solid contact skills that are going to help him. He probably has a better swing plane from the left side than the right side. But the ability to make contact is one of his better skills.
"It's probably average power and is that going to be enough for a corner outfield spot? It's not like he's a plus defender or a .300 hitter. At 6-foot-4 about 190, maybe he will grow into more power. But that was the biggest question I heard from scouts, whether he had the power to be an every day guy."
What about his defense?
"He'll be solid. That is one of the hardest thing to guage for a Cuban player because you don't see him as much. He's got solid speed. I don't think he will be a Gold Glove winner, but he won't be a liability either. I think he could be an average defender in a corner spot," Badler said.