Henry Urrutia and Michael Ohlman were two of the better hitters in the Orioles minor leagues this season and both have continued to hit well in the Arizona Fall League for the first-place Surprise Saguaros.
Urrutia is batting .364 with two homers, eight RBIs, a .568 slugging percentage and .997 OPS in 12 games. Of note, he has five extra-base hits in his last seven games with three doubles and two homers after producing just one extra-base hit in 58 at-bats with the Orioles.
After seeing Urrutia poke many singles into left field in the majors this year, fans have asked if Urrutia is pulling the ball in the AFL. It sounds like that part of his game is still to come but Orioles director of player development Brian Graham, who just spent a week watching the O’s prospects in the AFL, believes it will.
“All good hitters learn to pull the ball with experience,” Graham said. “I have absolutely no concerns that he’ll pull the ball naturally. When you pull pitches, it is learning how to hit in counts versus certain pitches in game situations and then you have to get the pitch to pull.
“Anyone concerned about Urrutia not pulling the ball needs to be patient. Driving the ball and hitting home runs is the last part of the puzzle for good hitters. He could be two years away from pulling the ball and hitting home runs. But as long as he is getting on base and hitting line drives all over the field, we are perfectly fine with that.”
Urrutia, the winner of the Brooks Robinson Award this year as O’s minor league Player of the Year, missed a few games in Arizona with some elbow soreness but is fine now and back getting some needed reps in the outfield.
As a taxi squad player in the AFL, Ohlman, a catcher, only starts twice a week for Surprise, but he’s made the most of those limited at-bats. Ohlman is batting .350 with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs, going 7-for-20. Against lefty pitching, the O’s 11th-round draft pick in 2009 is 3-for-6 with two doubles and a homer.
“He has done great,” Graham said. “He’s having very good at-bats and he’s shown the ability to drive the ball. Defensively, he has received well and shown arm strength. Most importantly, he’s fit in with some really good players out there and actually been the cream of the crop some days.”
Jonathan Schoop has not matched the offense of Urrutia and Ohlman, batting just .149 with two homers, five RBIs and a .522 OPS in 12 games.
Schoop, an Orioles September call-up, needs the extra at-bats in Arizona. He had his Triple-A season interrupted for over two months by a stress fracture in his lower back. Over 70 games for Norfolk, he batted .256 with 11 doubles, nine homers and 34 RBIs.
“Schoop has done fine. He just needed to go out and get more ABs and play in more games,” Graham said. “I am not alarmed at all about Schoop. His swing is fine, he is competing well and playing well. You are not seeing the results, but it’s only 50 at-bats or something. Can’t worry after 50 at-bats. If you watch him play, you like what you see.”
Schoop is expected to return to Arizona in the next few days after leaving the Saguaros to return to Curacao after a death in his family.
The Surprise team, managed by Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall, has the best record in the six-team AFL at 13-7-1 and is leading its division by 3 1/2 games. The championship game will be played Nov. 16.