Jays From the Couch looks at the red hot Blue Jays top prospect, shortstop Richard Urena
Major League Baseball has seen a massive influx of good young shortstops over the last two seasons. Most notably are Cleveland Indian’s Francisco Lindor, Houston Astros’ Carlos Correa, and Los Angeles Dodgers Corey Seager.
Is it possible the Toronto Blue Jays could have their own budding superstar shortstop in Richard Urena?
Maybe not, but it definitely appears that the 20-yr-old out of San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic is moving in the right direction.
— MiLB.com (@MiLB) August 11, 2016
In 2015, while with the Lansing Lugnuts, Urena punished Low A-Ball pitching. The young man hit 15 home runs in 91 games, adding 13 doubles and 4 triples. Unfortunately, Richard Urena only managed to hit .250 with just one home run in 30 games when promoted to Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League.
What caused the his power to drop from .172 ISO with Lansing to .065 ISO with Dunedin?
First, the FSL is a pitchers league.
Second, he struggled as a 2nd year switch-hitter. As a RHB against LHP he managed to hit just .205, while hitting .280 as a LHB against RHP.
Third, the kid was facing competition 3.7 years old than him and his propensity for swinging at everything resulted in a career low 2.3 BB%.
— Grading on the Curve (@GradingtheCurve) August 4, 2016
In Rookie-Ball and Low A-Ball prospects can get away with having good plate coverage, being able to make contact with balls outside the strike zone; however, pitchers in Advanced A-Ball and the proceeding levels will exploit these tendencies. This didn’t result in more strike outs, rather, it resulted in weak contact.
Instead of having Urena repeat 2016 with the Lugnuts, the Blue Jays decided to challenge him by starting him with the D-Jays.
Urena responded by hitting .267, .243, .308, and .371 over the first 4 months of the season. While still only walking in 5.8% of at-bats, Richard Urena was able to lower his K% to a respectable 14.8%.
The 6’0″, 185 lbs continues to have more success as a LHB versus RHP (.335BA), while making strides as a RHB versus LHP (.250BA). The Blue Jays organization doesn’t have many switch-hitters. This could be why the organization has shown patience as he develops.
Overall, Richard Urena was able to dominate FSL pitching in the same manner as he’d done a year earlier to Midwest pitching. His .305 batting puts him 2nd behind the St.Lucie Mets Tomas Nido for the FSL lead, while his 120 hits trails Clearwater Threshers Carlos Tocci‘s 121.
The talented young shortstop accomplished all this while being the youngest player in the Florida State League. 19-yr-old Cole Tucker of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization missed the being the youngest with only 49 games.
Thanks to his .346 BABIP, Urena was able to generate a great .368 wOBA and 132 wRC+ and earn himself a promotion.
Promoted on August 3rd, Urena hasn’t missed a beat. Richard Urena been the hottest hitter in the Toronto Blue Jays organization over the past 30 days. He owns a triple slash of .368/.417/.579 with a .996 OPS. His 41 hits during this period leads the entire organization, while only Ryan McBroom‘s 23 RBI eclipse the 22 he’s driven in.
Richard Urena’s arrival in New Hampshire means less playing time at shortstop for Shane Opitz and Jason Leblebijian. His departure from Dunedin opens the door for Jorge Flores (slumping) and Gunnar Heidt (7-day DL).
The next step for the Blue Jays hottest hitter would be Triple-A Buffalo; however, that is unlikely to happen this year. As a 20-yr-old, Urena is unlikely to be added to the 40-man roster; therefore, he is an unlikely candidate to be called up in September.
*Featured Image Credit: Buck Davidson UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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