With a little bit of ML service time under his belt already, Henry Urrutia is one of the leading candidates to play either left field or DH for the 2014 Baltimore Orioles. The 27-year-old Cuban defector signed with the Orioles on July 6, 2012 and played his first season in the minor leagues in 2013. While he’s considered to be a work in progress defensively and on the basepaths, Urrutia’s former manager, Gary Kendall, has been quoted as saying that Urrutia has “made strides in all facets of the game.”
Urrutia has shown excellent contact ability so far in his North American career, hitting above .300 at all levels (except the majors) including a .365/.433/.550 mark at his stop with the most plate appearances in Double-A Bowie. Orioles fans haven’t seen much power from Urrutia who hit only one extra-base hit in his brief, 24-game call up to the majors last season. Surprise Saguaros and Bowie Baysox manager Gary Kendall reported that Urrutia is still learning to pull the ball and has shown a lot of improvement, particularly during his time in the Arizona Fall League. Eduardo A. Encina at the Baltimore Sun quotes Kendall as saying, “I’ve seen him get to some pitches on the inner half of the plate, and that’s something that he’s going to have to be conscious of because out here, when they’ve had success [against him] it’s been in, trying to pound him in . . . But he’s been able to get at some pitches and drive some to right field, and he’s really centered the ball real well. His home runs have been more left-center to center field, but I think power is something that’s going to come with him once he gets acclimated.”
Another factor that is likely to help Urrutia is the fact that he’s already packed almost 20 pounds of muscle onto his 6’5″ frame since last season. Hitting the weights this offseason, Urrutia has already seen results, telling Encina, “the swing feels nice and smooth and [the ball] flies farther.” If Urrutia’s power develops like many think it will, it could be a huge breakout season for the big Cuban.