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The View From Behind the Backstop: Wuilmer Becerra

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Wuilmer Becerra, the 'other' piece in the R.A. Dickey deal, has been tearing the cover off the ball in Kingsport over the last month. How excited should you be about about this toolsy rightfielder?

Jessica Rudman

 

Wuilmer Becerra

RF, Kingsport Mets (R)
Height, weight: 6'4", 190
Age (2014 season age): 19
Acquired: Trade, 2012 (Toronto for Dickey/Thole/Nickeas)

Date(s) seen: vs. Bristol Pirates 8/14/14-8/15/14, vs. Greeneville Astros 8/16/14: 2-9, 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB, 4 K, HBP, SF
2014 so far: 200 PA, .298/.350/.475, 53 K/12 BB

The short of it

Becerra has started to bring his ample physical tools into games more often in 2014 and has changed his status from 'potentially interesting third piece of the R.A. Dickey deal' to 'potential top-15 prospect in the system.'

The long of it

Becerra was one of the main reasons I made the Kingsport trip this year, and he did not disappoint. He's probably a good 30 or so pounds heavier than his listed weight now, but his frame carries it well, and he's a very good athlete. So much so, that I had a scout throw an Alex Escobar comp on him. I can squint and see it, but Becerra is a more physical player and doesn't have Escobar's speed. He's no slouch once he gets underway though, and despite average home-to-first times, I'd grade him out as more of a solid-average runner overall. Becerra's long strides just eat up dirt despite a rather awkward style of running (another reason the scout went with an Escobar comp), and he looked plenty fast going first-to-home on a double. That, coupled with an easy plus arm should eventually make him an above-average defender in right field. He's not there yet mind you, as his jumps and routes are still very raw.

Of course the real draw here is the offensive potential, but like the defensive profile, it will require a good deal more maturation. When I spoke with him, Becerra said the biggest factor in his recent offensive improvements was an alteration he made in his approach. He had focused more on zoning fastballs and over the last month or so, it had helped to translate his raw physical strength into more in-game power. Becerra said this was a decision he had made and not part of the Mets organizational-wide philosophy of 'strike-hunting.'

It's easy to see why zoning fastballs has helped Becerra; his swing is currently geared to hit pitches from his waist up. He employs a very wide stance which makes it difficult for him to get his legs into the swing. Sometimes he will use a toe tap to help with timing/trigger his hips, other times he uses a more pronounced leg kick to achieve the same thing. I thought the latter was just something he was fooling around with in batting practice, but he did occasionally use it in games as well. I am generally anti-leg-kick, especially for a hitter as strong as Becerra, but he has a tendency to trigger early with the toe tap, which can mess with his timing and leave him lunging at balls, especially those down in the zone.  Becerra's hand load is also pretty long, which exacerbates the timing issue if he triggers his hips early, and he brings his hands up during the load and nearly bars his left arm. This is a good way to generate more power, but can leave him vulnerable to offspeed stuff as he less time to adjust. Several times during my look I saw Becerra swing through offspeed stuff up in the zone.

Despite the (I think fixable) mechanical issues with Becerra's swing, when he was right he showed easy plus raw power. And there were some things I like about his swing as well. He has plenty of bat speed even with the length in his swing. He's very quiet-pre swing, and despite the long load he starts his hands very naturally, like an archer pulling back on a bow. You would think pulling his hands up the way he does would lead to him dropping his back shoulder, but that didn't happen much. Becerra consistently kept everything level and his hands in. The most impressive game swing I saw, he stayed in on a fastball boring in on his hands, and was able to drive it into the LCF gap for a double. He also has more advanced bat control and hand-eye coordination than you would expect given his K/BB ratio, which I think is due more to the current mechanical limitations of his swing than pitch recognition issues (though like most Appy League players, he will chase spin). Becerra is not going to move quickly, and there is plenty of risk here, but the payoff at the end could be a plus athlete in right field capable of putting 20+ balls over the fence. Not too bad for a supposed 'non-elite prospect.'

 

 

The optimistic projection

Above-average everyday RF who bags you 20 home runs and can steal a base. I can't get fully on-board with the Escobar comp, but maybe something like late-career Marlon Byrd?

The pessimistic projection

Becerra's athleticism and innate bat-to-ball ability should get him to Double-A, but that could be the place where the swing-and-miss issues finally derail him.

What to look for in the 2015 season

Becerra should head to Savannah (or wherever the Mets A-ball affiliate is in 2015) for his first taste of full-season ball. The jump to the South Atlantic League is going to be a strong test of how quickly the 20-year-old can adjust to better secondary stuff. I'd like to see him  make strides with his strike zone control, and for the plus raw power to continue to show up in game action.

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