Sometimes in life, you have to face your fears. This particular column presents that very opportunity for me. As one who gladly shouted down any mention of Darin Ruf's prospect value with bellows of "DOUBLE-A BY 26" and "DO YOU EVEN LIFT?", it worries me that I'm going to write an entire article on a prospect who began this season as a 26-year old in Double-A. There is a difference between Darin Ruf, and this article's subject, Henry Urrutia, though. Urrutia has had a far more unusual path to Double-A, starting with his career as a member of the Cuban national team. The Baltimore Orioles signed Urrutia for $778,500 in the summer of 2012, though he wasn't able to see playing time due to visa issues, marking it the second straight year that he wasn't playing organized baseball due to a failed defection attempt that resulted in a one year suspension from Cuban baseball.
As you might expect, Urrutia performed well at Double-A, resulting in a recent promotion to Triple-A and he could very well see time at the major league level, after all...he's not getting younger. In 200 Double-A at-bats, Urrutia recorded a .365/.433/.550 slash line, resulting a 171 wRC+ and a thorough domination of generally younger competition. This isn't exactly surprising given his age relative to the level, but it is encouraging given his two-year layoff. So far, Triple-A has been a bit tougher, though for a first run through he's performing well with a .298/.353.426 slash line. Urrutia should be able to post a good batting average with low strikeout rates and adequate walk rates, though he's not going to offer fantasy value on the basepaths as he's stolen one base and been caught stealing once thus far this season.
A left-handed hitter, Urrutia features a line drive stroke and as you might imagine is much stronger facing righties than lefties, posting a 994 OPS against right-handed pitchers compared to a 798 OPS against southpaws. While he's able to sting the ball to all fields, Urrutia doesn't pack much of a home run punch. Over the course of a full season I'd put him in the 12-15 range, though he should be able to rack up some doubles. He's not fleet of foot and that bears itself out both on the basepaths and in the field where he's something of a liability. Urrutia isn't a well rounded prospect, but what he is, is a hitter. The hit tool is average and could be slightly above, though as we discussed, time is not on his side. It's not a pretty profile, but it's a likely major leaguer and someone who can hit will almost never hurt a fantasy team.
Much of Urrutia's fantasy value is going to come from his immediacy, though he could benefit in several counting categories as the Orioles lineup is a strong one. My optimism for a call up in the near future stems from solid-to-better-than-solid performance from Urrutia, as well as the fact that the Orioles have consistently featured what I'd refer to as an abominable hitter at their designated hitter spot. They are also clearly an organization that has no issues pulling the trigger on a prospect if they think he might help their team whether he's fully ready for the show or not. I'd normally be concerned about his lack of quality defense, but as I stated, I think he'll be featured in the DH spot for the most part. I suppose my concern about the "Double-A by 26" issue was overblown in the end. Partially because Urrutia is a bit of a unique case, and partially because he won't be anything special to begin with. That said, you don't need him to be special if you're in a deep enough league. AL Only and 18-20 team mixed leaguers should take notice, as Urrutia might not win you a league, but he won't lose you one either.