Late last summer the Orioles made a minor splash when they signed Cuban defector Henry Urrutia for $778,500. The 25 year old outfielder was reportedly not too far from major league ready with the potential to be a fourth outfielder or fringe starter in left or right. After the signing, the organization said they wanted to get him into game action as soon as possible at AA-Bowie. Unfortunately he had visa issues and couldn’t make it in time for the 2012 season and it wasn’t until April of this year that he finally made it to the United States.

Now 26, Urrutia almost immediately became the best hitter in AA Bowie’s lineup.  Hitting for average and some power while drawing a decent amount of walks, he quickly caught the attention of anyone paying attention to the minor league box scores.

Henry Urrutia

The left handed batter was just recently promoted to AAA-Norfolk after hitting .365/.433/.550 with 16 doubles, 7 home runs, 37 RBI, and a stolen base over 200 at bats for the Bowie Baysox. Those are great numbers but when you consider his age, it wouldn’t normally be an indicator of an emerging prospect.

Then again, not all prospects are created equal. The most impressive thing about Urrutia’s season so far is how quickly he seemed to excel. I expected a slow start due to not playing baseball at a professional level since 2010 and also acclimating to a new country with cultural and language differences.

His time at AAA should help us figure out the real story as pitchers at this level tend to be more polished – throwing more off speed pitches, having a better game plan, and locating their pitches a little better.

While AA typically has better pitching prospects, Urrutia may have been feasting on fastballs staying up in the zone as well as off speed pitches that weren’t as sharp as intended. From what I can tell his biggest issue at the plate is breaking balls away like a lot of hitters, most notably Adam Jones. That’s why I’m glad the Orioles decided to promote him to AAA instead of waiting and bringing him directly to the majors. We can see first hand if he can handle a more laid out game plan against him while giving him a chance to improve as he sees more of that.

In the field, Urrutia appears to be a guy that can get the job done but isn’t going to compete for any gold gloves any time soon. I think its the same idea on the bases – not too slow, not too fast.

At the plate he is more of a doubles hitter than a home run guy but certainly more than capable of hitting one out. His on-base percentage is decent but more tied into his average than would be ideal. As long as he can keep his average on the higher side that wouldn’t be a problem.

Overall, I think the original prognostication is probably still accurate with maybe a bit more upside. Not a bad guy to have under team control for six plus years as a reserve outfielder that could turn out to be a solid starting left fielder. I think its safe to assume Urrutia is a real prospect, settling in somewhere right behind Jonathon Schoop, Eduardo Rodriguez, Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Hunter Harvey, and Nick Delmonico.

Orioles fans can check him out at the Futures Game during the all-star festivities. Both Rodriguez and Urrutia were selected to represent the World team.