With the Prospect Positional Primer series complete, my attention has turned to ranking the Blue Jays top 30 prospects. The list has been shortened from the 50 we offered in previous years, as I’ll be carrying the load on my own this winter. My preliminary goal is to release a new prospect article every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, resulting in the completion of the rankings 10 weeks from now in late January. I will attempt to provide as extensive of a report as I can, and I hope you, the readers, are looking forward to this series as much as I am looking forward to writing it.
Name: Wuilmer Becerra
Position: Corner Outfield
Date of birth: 10/01/1994 (18)
Acquired: Signed as International Free Agent out of Venezuela in July 2011 ($1.3 million USD)
High School: N/A
Height/Weight: 6’4”/190 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
- Unranked on 2012 Top 30 prospects list
- Ranked by Baseball America as 5th best International Free Agent (July 2011)
2012 Statistics and Analysis
32 AB, .250/.359/.375 (.734 OPS), 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 4/7 BB/K
Wuilmer Becerra was one of the hottest names around the Blue Jays minor league complex last spring, and both Toronto and industry folk were expecting a breakout by the 17 year old. He got off to a pretty good start in his professional debut, as through his first 10 games he had eight hits (including four doubles) and four walks. The speed he’s become well known for didn’t show up in the box score, but all in all it was a solid first two weeks. Unfortunately, in his 11th game, disaster struck. In his first plate appearance, Yankees pitching prospect Graham Stoneburner hit Becerra in the face with a pitch, breaking his jaw and ending his season in what by all accounts was a very scare scene.
Video (from MLBProspectPortal.com)
Standing 6-foot-4, Becerra has a lot of length and uses that to create a tremendous amount of leverage in his swing. He swings with a noticeable uppercut, and accentuates the power potential further by wrapping his bat while in the load position. Bat wrapping can diminish your ability to react and adjust to offspeed pitches, which weakens the overall contact game. Becerra’s plate coverage is good, not great, but the holes become drastically exposed when he lengthens his swing path and sells out for power.
Becerra has two outstanding tools in his speed and power. The speed leads the way with plus-plus potential, as the Venezuelan has been timed between 6.5 and 6.6 seconds in the 60 yard dash. In shorter distances, however, such as between first and second base, Becerra can’t get up to full speed so that natural athleticism doesn’t make him an elite base stealer. The power is generated by the aforementioned length and leverage, and aided by the strength in his lower half. The raw power has plus potential, but how much of it Becerra can translate into game action is up for debate.
Defensively, Becerra’s position is still up in the air. He played some shortstop in his early teenage years, but there were a couple of problems with that alignment. First, Becerra’s size eliminated the viability of him remaining there long term, and second, Becerra’s hands and footwork were below average. His exceptional speed gives him more than enough range to play centerfield, but because of his unusual build, there are questions about how much speed he can maintain as he matures. His arm is below average, so if a permanent move to a corner is required, left field will be the destination. He split time between left and right in 2012, as the supremely talented Anthony Alford patrolled centerfield for the GCL Blue Jays prior to Becerra’s injury.
The hit tool is the biggest question mark, as evident by his swing mechanics. Some days Becerra looks like a patient, potentially above average hitter, and on other days, he completely sells out for power and looks like a lumberjack at the plate. The present bat speed is very good, but one has to wonder if he’ll see a decline if he lowers his hands and shortens up the swing. His future and offensive potential are dependent upon the development of the bat, but we just don’t have enough information at this point to accurately judge the tool.
The perfect world projection for Wuilmer Becerra would be an everyday left fielder capable of hitting 20 home runs and stealing 20 bases annually.
2013 Outlook, Risk, and ETA
The Blue Jays appear to have a relatively universal development path with young Latin America signees. In their first year, they get accustomed to the North American culture and lifestyle in the Gulf Coast League – where the Hispanic community is strong, and in their second year, they make the move to the advanced rookie level. Despite playing in just 11 games last year I expect they’ll employ a similar plan with Becerra, so he should open the 2013 season with Bluefield in the Appalachian League. His long term outlook should be classified as extremely high risk, as in addition to the lack of professional reps, there are the questions regarding his hit tool that I touched on above. The most optimistic ETA might be late 2016, but the more realistic expectation might be in the second half of the 2017 season.