While shortstop may be weak at the major league level for the Tampa Bay Rays, there is plenty of depth at the position in the minor leagues. With prospects such as Hak-Ju Lee and Jake Hager, as well as former #1 pick Tim Beckham, the future at the position appears fairly bright. However, aside from these players, there are also other solid pieces waiting for their opportunity, even if it may be at another position.
One of the players that may end up at another position may be Juniel Querecuto. Querecuto was signed out of Venezuela at age 16, and given $500,000 as a signing bonus. The son of former minor league player Juan Querecuto, he had been taught to switch hit at age 4, and was said to possess great instincts and quickness at shortstop.
Querecuto made his debut at age 17 for the GCL Rays in 2010. Despite being one of the younger players in the league, he performed at a decent level, producing a .251/.315/.287 slash line. Of his 42 hits, only 5 went for extra bases (4 doubles and a lone triple); however, he did steal 11 bases in 13 attempts. His defense, considered his greatest asset, was decent, as he had a .942 fielding percentage and a range factor per game of 4.61
For the 2011 season, Querecuto was promoted to the Hudson Valley Renegades. Against slightly tougher competition, he struggled, hitting at a .241/.292/.303 clip. While his strikeout rate of 14.9% was below league average (19.3%), his walk rate was as well, as he walked in only 6.6% of his plate appearances, compared to 9.0% for the rest of the league. Querecuto also struggled defensively, committing 44 errors in 297 total chances for a .912 fielding percentage.
This season, at age 19, Querecuto finds himself playing for the full season Bowling Green Hot Rods. Through 78 games, he is hitting at a .246/.317/.297 rate, with 10 doubles and 2 triples. His batting eye is showing signs of improvement, as he has walked in 9.2% of his plate appearances, better than the league average of 8.6%. Likewise, his strikeout rate of 18.1%, while higher than in 2011, is still below the league average of 19.3%.
Perhaps most importantly for his future, Querecuto has been playing positions other than shortstop for the first time in his professional career. At this point, he has played 32 games at short, 35 at second, and 10 at third. The transition to second has appeared to be seamless, as he has made only 1 error in 136 total chances.
Should Querecuto have a chance to reach the majors, it is likely to be as a utility infielder. At this stage of his development, he has virtually no power to speak of, and seems like the classic ‘good field, no hit’ middle infielder that was predominant through the 1980’s. However, he does have decent speed, which may become an asset should he develop more of a batting stroke.