After learning the value of surplus depth last season when injuries began to pile up, the San Francisco Giants have continued to sign versatile ballplayers such as infielder Juniel Querecuto this offseason should multiple players land on the disabled list again this year.
Looking to stockpile major-league ready talent, the San Francisco Giants signed Juniel Querecuto to a minor-league deal. He is an intriguing 24-year-old middle infielder hailing from Venezuela who has improved with age.
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Querecuto was born into baseball as his father, Juan Querecuto, played five seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays organization and 13 seasons with the Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League. The elder Querecuto taught his son to switch-hit at the age of four, a tool which the younger still utilizes to this day.
At 16, the Tampa Bay Rays signed Querecuto as an international free agent out of Venezuela with a $500,000 signing bonus included in the deal on July 2, 2009.
Since debuting with the Gulf Coast League Rays in 2010, Querecuto has slowly climbed through each level of the minors until finally reaching the big leagues in 2016 — a plateau his father never reached.
Tampa Bay chose an odd time to let Querecuto walk in free agency and sign with the San Francisco Giants. Although his career slash line of .253/.311/.319 over 2,112 minor league plate appearances isn’t too impressive on paper, Querecuto’s has upped his offensive production with each passing season.
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In his first three seasons in Tampa Bay’s organization, Querecuto had a combined OPS of .608 while facing Rookie Ball, Short Season Class-A, and Class-A pitching. Considering Querecuto was still a teenager during these seasons, and there was an average age difference of 2.8 during those three seasons, his struggles are a bit more understandable.
Querecuto ended 2012 with a minor-league career-high OPS of .619, then proceeded to take a season off of professional ball in 2013, but upon his return to the diamond in 2014 his offensive production noticeably jumped.
In 387 plate appearances with the Class-A Bowling Green Hot Rods, the middle-infielder had an OPS of .689 and a wRC+ of 101, while hitting his first and second career home runs in minor-league ball.
Querecuto’s hot bat earned him a promotion to the Advanced Class-A Charlotte Stone Crabs, but he had a difficult time adjusting to a higher level of pitching, hitting .194/.211/.237 with a wRC+ of 23.
Despite his initial struggles with Charlotte, Querecuto tore the cover off the ball with the Stone Crabs. To begin 2015 the Rays promoted him to the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits where he slashed .293/.355/.373 with a wRC+ of 125 in 169 plate appearances.
Similar to the season prior, Querecuto initially struggled in transitioning to a higher level of pitching, this time with Montgomery, but hit better after establishing a comfort zone the next season.
In 2016, Querecuto hit .241/.298/.341 in both Double-A and Triple-A over 375 plate appearances before Tampa Bay promoted the middle-infielder to the big leagues as a September call-up.
During his first three seasons in the minors Querecuto had a combined OPS of .608, but in the last three he has had a combined .650 — all while facing a more advanced level of pitching and being younger than the league average. Querecuto’s ability to hit from both sides of the plate is a useful tool, and he has hit noticeably better against left-handed pitching in the minors.
For all his developments with the bat, Querecuto’s skill on defense remains his calling card as scouts have praised Querecuto’s instincts, quickness, and a strong arm at the shortstop position.
Querecuto’s primary position is shortstop, but he has begun to play at both second and third base as well to increase his defensive versatility. He has played 92 games at both second and third in his minor league career, committing 17 errors in 1,576 innings combined.
Should the San Francisco Giants succumb to multiple injuries, Querecuto would be a solid option off the bench. As a versatile defensive-minded infielder with above-average speed, he fits the mold of an ideal utility man and should his offensive productivity further progress, he may carve out a larger role for himself.
Currently, Querecuto’s chances of cracking the big league roster are very slim unless a couple of players go down with injuries. He will most likely begin 2017 with the Sacramento River Cats, but a mid-season promotion remains plausible.