Before the first 20 comments start screaming this means the O’s won’t add an outfielder, it doesn’t mean that at all. I am writing this blog speculating and wondering about Urrutia and not because anyone with the organization is handing him that job. That is just not so.
So now, having said that, could he be the guy?
Urrutia drew plenty of praise for his bat in the Arizona Fall League. Over 18 games he hit .377 with three homers, 15 RBIs, a .551 slugging percentage and .985 OPS. He hit well against left-handed (.389) and right-handed pitchers (.373). Urrutia went 2-for-3 with the bases loaded with a grand slam. He hit a homer well over 400 feet to straightaway center field.
Fans saw Urrutia slap singles to left field as an Oriole last year, but club officials were impressed with the pop he showed in Arizona and feel more power is coming for Hank.
In 81 minor league games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, the 26-year-old Urrutia hit .347 with nine homers, 50 RBIs and a .913 OPS. He showed a smooth swing and some decent plate discipline skills.
At the Winter Meetings earlier this week, O’s manager Buck Showalter was asked what Urrutia needs to do to take his game to another level?
“I think he’s got to get reps,” Showalter said. “You think about everything he went through last year. He finally gets to where he’s out of Cuba and then there is a process of getting out of Haiti and the Dominican, the whole nine yards. All of a sudden, he’s in the minor leagues for a little while, extended spring and the next thing you know he’s in the big leagues. Then he goes to the fall league.
“You think about the year he had, the challenges in his life. And to get through it and hit .300 at, what, three levels and not embarrass himself at our level. He’s a very interesting guy for me. And I think things are really going to settle down and slow down for him this spring. He’s another potential pop or what-if guy for me.”
Showalter’s comment echos what I’ve heard from others in the organization: Urrutia is a player on the rise and he has a very good chance to help the 2014 Orioles.
But Urrutia’s defense clearly needs work. He’s made some improvements, but he needs to make more. That, more than anything, could hinder his chance to win a job in spring training. He’ll need to step up his game to play for the defensive-minded Orioles.
But Urrutia showed his bat could be good enough at times in 2013. If the Orioles open the competition in left field for next year, he should certainly get a shot to win that job.