Welcome to the 4th installment of the official MMO 2012 Mets Top 20 Prospects list. Today we bring you #17, LHP Juan Urbina. In the summer of 2009, as a 16-year-old living in Venezuela, Urbina was one of the most sought after International Free Agents on the market. The Mets managed to sign him away from a slew of other teams that were also interested in the young left-hander.
In 2010 he made his stateside debut with the GCL Mets, going 5-3 in 11 GS, with an ERA of 5.03. The 2011 season got off to a bumpy start for Urbina as he was roughed up a bit in his first 5 GS. In those starts, he lost his first 3 decisions and was sporting an ERA of 9.45 on July 16th. And then he began to quietly turn his season around.
In his last 7 GS of 2011, he went 4-3 with an ERA of 4.00, giving up 36 hits in 36 IP, while striking out 34 and walking 8. Although the overall numbers weren’t so great for the year, it was clearly not a lost season for Urbina. He fought through adversity to turn the season from a negative, into a positive, and learned from the experience.
Urbina, now 18, has a clean, effortless delivery and at 6’2″, shows excellent mechanics and good command. His fastball and change-up are his best pitches, though the curveball still needs refinement. If he can sharpen his breaking-ball and miss some bats with it, he can move quickly through the system. Most reports on how hard Urbina throws, are a year to two years old. I would give you the most current report on how hard he is throwing his fastball, but why don’t I let him tell you that himself. I interviewed Juan last week, and he gave us this update:
Petey: Thanks for giving us some of your time Juan. The Mets signed you as an International Free Agent from Venezuela, in the summer of 2009. Were there other teams interested in signing you? Why did you decide to sign with the Mets?
Juan: Yes around 10 more teams (were) interested in me, and I did sign with the Mets because from (when) I was a little kid, I like the team.
Petey: Your father Ugueth, was a very good major league pitcher from 1995 until 2005, pitching for the Expos, Red Sox, Tigers, Phillies, Rangers, and Marlins. He was a two-time All-Star (1998 & 2002), and led the NL in saves in 1999, with 41. In 2003, pitching in the post-season for Florida, he picked up two saves in the World Series on the way to winning a championship over the New York Yankees. What kinds of things was your father able to teach you about pitching?
Juan: Anything, I did never play catch with dad when I was a kid, but now we always talk about baseball, about little things that I have to do to be a major league pitcher.
Petey: Can you tell us a little more about your arsenal? What pitches you throw, at what speeds, and are you working on any new pitches moving forward?
Juan: Fastball, curveball and change-up. This year I hit 95 mph, but I was from 90 to 93 mph most of the time.
Petey: After getting off to a slow start last season, what kind of adjustments and improvements did you make in order to get things turned around? What were some things you were working with your pitching coach on to improve this season?
Juan: I’ve (been) working on my mechanics, staying on my back leg. And also (working on) my curveball with my pitching coach Jonathan Hurst. And by myself just learning of the little things to be better in this job.
Petey: What kind of things will you do to stay in shape over the winter? Can you describe your workout regimen?
Juan: Run almost everyday so that my legs don’t get heavy during the winter. And keep working in everthing that I was working during this year.
Petey: What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Other than dad, your favorite player?
Juan: From (when I was a) kid my team is the New York Mets. And my favorite player is Randy Johnson.
Petey: Is there a major league pitcher that you think you are similar to in style? Or someone that you can see yourself pitching like someday in the majors?
Juan: A couple things that I do pitching is like Johan Santana, like my mechanics is something similar at his mechanics.
Petey: What are your goals for next season? Is there a particular club you hope to make out of spring training?
Juan: Keep working hard to get a long (season) league, and also keep (healthy) to get the season that I would like to get.
Petey: Is there another team in the Appalachian League that really impressed you this year at Kingsport, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.
Juan: Danville Atlanta… why? Because those position players have a nice approach to batting. Also had a nice pitching staff.
Petey: And to finish up Juan, just a little personal info, not about baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?
Juan: Well I like to watch a lot of terror and comedy movie, I like the American Hip-Hop, and also the Reggaeton, and the Latin music. My favorite food? It’s hard to tell you. I mean I like all the food that my mom and grandmom cook for me heehee.
Wow, awesome. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview Juan. On behalf of all the MMO staff and readers, we are very grateful to you. Good luck next year, and we hope to see you in the long season league at Savannah!
Juan Urbina Video Link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zs0-cC1bNuM
Check back on Monday when I’ll reveal Mets Prospect #16, right here on MMO…
2012 Top 20 Mets Prospects
#19 Michael Fulmer, RHP (Exclusive Interview)
#18 Akeel Morris, RHP (Exclusive Interview)