The discussion about the Jays' top prospects usually involves the same few names. We hear a lot about Anthony Alford, Connor Greene, Rowdy Tellez, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
These are just a few of the names that continue to be brought up before the Jays' number 3 prospect, Richard Urena.
For those who are close followers of the Blue Jays, Urena's name is probably somewhat familiar. After all, he is the team's number three prospect. But, most often what we hear about him is that he's a good defensive shortstop, and then we move on to more exciting prospects. But, Richard Urena is starting to show that maybe it's time we pay him a little more attention.
Urena's most notable trait is his defense. He posses soft hands and a strong arm, all of which indicates he will have the ability to make a career at shortstop. While he's made his fair share of errors in the minors, many scouts have said this is mostly due to his young age (20 years old), and will go away in time as he refines his game.
While Urena's defense has long been his calling card, Urena's offensive improvements should be noted.
Urena got his start in the Jays' system in 2013 at the age of 17. In his first season he started in the Dominican league before moving up to Bluefield. In 2014 Urena made it up to Vancouver for a few games before the season ended. In his first two years Urena looked a lot like what you would expect. Good athlete, but made mental mistakes. He played exactly like you would expect from a 17/18 year old.
But, last season Urena finally got his chance to play a full season of ball. He started the season in Lansing where he wowed scouts with his improvements on defense and ability to hit for some power. By the end of the season, Urena had earned himself a promotion to Dunedin. In all, Urena finished the season slashing .262/.284/.407 while hitting while hitting 16 home runs.
Many of you are currently thinking that his slash line isn't nearly as impressive as you would imagine for a top prospect. But, what needs to be noted is that Urena did this at just 19 years old.
Turn the page to 2016. Urena's play in 2015 was enough to earn him an invite to spring training. Urena only played in 11 games, but made enough of an impression on them for Gibbons to say, "He looks like the future....... He'll probably be the heir apparent to Tulowitzki someday. He's very calm. He carries himself like a big leaguer. He hits from both sides of the plate, and he's a good defender. So he's got everything."
High praise for 20 year old.
Urena eventually got sent to Dunedin where he's easily been the youngest member of the team all season. But, that hasn't slowed Urena down one bit. So far this season, Urena is hitting .274/.326/.403. His homerun stroke isn't the same as last season as he's only hit 4 up to this point. But he's on pace to set new season highs in doubles, triples, and stolen bases.
The reason this is significant is it shows that Urena is growing. Urena is learning to be a line drive gap hitter instead of trying to clear the fences. Something that will be important as Urena get's closer to the majors.
Urena has also doubled his BB% from last season (3.0% to 6.1%). Add in the fact that Urena is on pace to post his second consecutive season of improving his K%, and you can see that at 20 years old he's rapidly getting a better understanding of the strike zone.
These are just some of the improvements that we continue to see from Urena that gives hope. With Tulowitzki signed through 2021, we probably won't see Urena for at least a few years. But this 20 year old is starting to make a case for the organization's top prospect.