By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
Now that the season is over, the crew at Blue Jays from Away will take a look at the Blue Jays one by one and review how each player’s season went, whether he met expectations (or not) and look at how he fits into (what we think of) the Blue Jays’ plans going forward.
Shortstop Richard Urena put himself firmly on the prospect map with a stellar 2016 that saw him rise from class-A Advanced Dunedin to double-A New Hampshire at the age of 20. Added to the 40-man roster after that season, Urena started 2017 in New Hampshire and finished in Toronto.
That said, the 2017 season wasn't a bed of roses for the young infielder. Urena has typically put up a batting average about 40-to-50 points lower than his BABIP and when his BABIP dropped a bit in 2017 (to fairly league-average .294), his batting average dropped to .247 overall. When he walked in just 5.4% of his plate appearances, it only brought up his OBP to .286 and when he hit fewer line drives and more infield fly balls, it also brought his isolated slugging down from where it was in 2016 (at both levels) to .112.
Urena was fairly consistent in 2017. After getting off to a slow start (.549 OPS in April), he had a .670 OPS in May (with five doubles, two triples and two home runs) and a .626 OPS in June (with nine doubles, a triple and a home run). His best month was July as he took the most walks in the season (nine) while hitting 10 doubles and one home run, posting a .710 OPS. He regressed to a .642 slash line in August, mostly due to a sharp decline in walks (just three) while maintaining his power, hitting eight doubles and one home run.
A September call up, Urena joined the Blue Jays on September 1 and played very regularly at shortstop, taking over for the injured Troy Tulowitzki and the offensively challenged Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney. The experiment wasn't exactly a success as the 21-year-old Urena (who doesn't turn 22 until later this month) hit just .206/.270/.309. While he did walk more than in the minors (8.0%), he also struck out more than twice as much (37.3%) over a limited sample size of 75 plate appearances. In a limited sample, Urena fared better from the right side of the plate (hitting .250/.368/.250) but showed less power than from his natural side, the left (.192/.236/.327 with all five of his big-league extra-base hits, four doubles and a home run).
I think that Urena is going to start 2018 in triple-A Buffalo but he'll get some playing time in spring training (as a member of the 40-man roster). The lack of hitting at higher levels is concerning, as is the lack of walks. While he has excellent defensive skills (although he'll sometimes make mental mistakes), defence without at least a .320 OBP is going to be tough to keep on a big league roster.
Urena has 31 days of MLB service time and has two option years left.
2017 Regular Season Grades
Jay Blue: Incomplete
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