Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
I Couldn't Think of a Clever Punning Title
2005-06-19 11:07
by Mark T.R. Donohue

As penance for my not realizing he was even back with the big club until he had several at-bats under his belt, here's your Jorge Piedra Naming the No-Names report.

Jorge Moises Piedra is a rarity, an American high school player who went undrafted and yet made his way to the major leagues. Born 4/17/79 in California, Piedra signed with the Dodgers organization in 1997. After hitting well for average but not much power in single A, Piedra was traded to the Cubs for Ismael Valdez mid-2000. His career in the high minors has been somewhat erratic. He began to hit for power in AA West Tenn in 2001, but his on-base skills abandoned him. A poor start in 2002 saw him traded to the Rockies and demoted to High-A Salem, where he managed to consolidate his power (13 homers) and average (.301).

A third go-round in AA proved to be the charm, as Piedra connected for a career-high 18 home runs and put together a .275/.342/.513 line. The rarified air of Colorado Springs helped to continued improvement (.334/.372/.557) and a first audition with the parent club (3 homers, .297/.340/.484 in 91 ABs) in 2004.

Cory Sullivan beat Piedra out for a roster spot entering this season, although Jorge managed a pinch hit during a brief cameo in Denver after Dustan Mohr's April injury. A further setback came April 11th when Piedra was suspended for 10 days under the terms of the new performance-enhancing drug agreement. He accepted the suspension and responsbility for taking painkillers he claimed he was unaware would cause a positive test result.

His season has since proceeded without incident, as he's compiled a .312/.372/.527 line at Colorado Springs with 6 homers and 45 RBIs. The experts are divided on Piedra, as you would expect from his inconsistent minor league record. "I've seen him twice," writes John Sickels in The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, "and one time he looked like a future batting champion, and the other time he looked like he couldn't hit himself out of a wet paper bag." The 2005 Scouting Notebook expresses confidence in Piedra's offense (seeing him as a fourth outfielder or even the lefty half of a platoon) and defense (believing him to be able to play center in the majors, which the Rockies apparently don't). The tools hounds at the Baseball America Prospect Handbook haven't seen fit to rank him in their top 30 for the Rockies' organization three years running, although he doesn't fit the profile of the sort of players they like.

Piedra's biggest asset at this point is his age (26). He's probably not going to edge out Sullivan, Hawpe, or Holliday for a starting job, but his versatility afield and left-handed bat could make him an extremely useful bench player. He'll get plenty of opportunities to prove he belongs in the majors later this season after Preston Wilson (certainly) and Dustan Mohr (probably) are traded. At the moment, his existence in the system begs the question of why the Rockies are periodically playing Luis Gonzalez in the outfield. Who knows why this team does anything they do.

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