Tuesday, March 19, 2013
37 Jays: The Joyfully Ugly Game of Moises Sierra
Provenance: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Signed as an amateur free agent in 2005.
Contract Status: Still on year-to-year deals. Has 65 days of Major League service time.
2012 Stats: In his big league debut, posted .274 OBP and .374 slugging with 44 strikeouts and eight walks in 157 plate appearances. Plus six dingers and a stolen base.
Back of the Baseball Card: Has improved progressively through his seven seasons of minor league ball. Overall, has a .332 OBP and .405 slugging, but his best showings have been in Double-A and Triple-A: .343/.439 with 19 HRs in 141 games at New Hampshire, .360/.472 with 17 HRs in 100 games at Las Vegas. Also posted an impressive .372 OBP in 185 PAs in the Dominican League this winter, walking 19 times versus 32 strikeouts.
Injury History: Missed most of 2010 with a stress fracture and a fracture of the hamate bone.
Looking Back: There were moments in 2012 where it seemed as though Moises Sierra was compiling his own personal blooper reel.
Fly balls were often an adventure, especially when he neglected to put his sunglasses on his face before an inning. He made some of the ugliest slides you'll ever see, and his baserunning seemed as though it should always have "Yakety Sax" playing as its soundtrack. At the plate, it seemed as though there wasn't a pitch that could be thrown in his direction that wouldn't elicit a swing.
So why is Sierra so darn lovable? Maybe it's the infectious abandon with which Sierra plays. It can be frustrating at moments, and if you didn't remind yourself that he's still just 23 years old, you might wonder if there is any salvaging such a raw player. There are just enough highs to make you think that one day, they might outweigh the lows.
If you can get past the some of the goofy-ugly play, it might be worth remembering that Sierra - at best an afterthought for franchise depth a year ago - eventually went on to hit as many homers as Travis Snider and Eric Thames combined. Or that he posted a better OPS than Yunel Escobar or Adeiny Hechevarria. Apples and oranges, but still.
If you couldn't find the affection for him based on the small exposure to him in Toronto last year, maybe his Dominican Winter League line could offer a small glimmer of hope that he could learn to address his weaker points. The fact that he walked in more than 10% of his plate appearances has to be encouraging, right?
And if you have caught Sierra's outings in the World Baseball Classic for the Dominican Republic, it's easy to get caught up in the moment that he's having in that tournament.
Looking Ahead: With that said, we shouldn't kid ourselves as to what Moises Sierra is. In the short term, he might be a fifth or sixth outfielder. Moreover, his value as a bench player is limited by the fact that he is a highly specious choice to be played in center field.
For 2013, Sierra will provide Triple-A depth, and a season in the International League will serve him well. Getting an honest assessment of Sierra's true talent level outside of the PCL would certainly help to asses whether if his progress through the higher levels of the minor leagues is an illusion, or if there's still room for growth as he reaches his prime seasons.
Pessimistically: Is a non-factor in Buffalo, and slips back or out of the Jays' future plans completely.
Optimistically: A more selective approach means better pitches, more production, and maybe a fringe role on the big league roster in 2014 or beyond.