From the AFL: Guillermo Quiroz

PEORIA, ARIZ.--Injuries happen. If you play long enough, hard enough, eventually you'll get dinged up. Guillermo Quiroz knows this first hand. The young Blue Jays catching prospect has proven everything he needs to prove in the minors, now he just needs to stay healthy enough to stick on the Major League roster. Despite a season in which injuries severely limited his time on the field, as Quiroz makes his way through the AFL season he has no intentions of writing off 2005.

In an AFL season chock full of highly touted catching prospects, Guillermo Quiroz is right at the top of the list. Despite debuting in the Blue Jays organization back in 1999 he won't turn 24 years old until the end of November, and if it weren't for a string of freak injuries, you'd probably already be very familiar with his name.

"It's frustrating," Quiroz says, "and it does start to worry you, getting that 'injury prone' label, but I really don't think it's anything about my body, they've just been freak injuries. I got hit on the hand and it broke a bone, that caused me to miss two months, and then I missed a month because of my shoulder, and then I had a collapsed lung, and I had to have surgery on that. There's nothing I can really do about it, but it still is frustrating."

The injuries combined to leave Quiroz with just 121 at bats in 2005, something he's looking forward to remedying this fall and winter.

"For me the focus of the rest of this year, and of next year, is just staying healthy. I know I can play, I've shown that, but I can't play when I'm not on the field," Quiroz says after a round of batting practice that featured him taking the ball the other way, with power, "That's why the AFL is so big for me. I'm really not going to have an offseason this offseason, because I'll be here in Arizona until the end of the league, and then I'll head back to Venezuela to play for my Winter Ball team there."

For Quiroz he's looking to catch up on at bats, but just because he'll be leaving the country doesn't mean the level of competition will drop.

"Those team have a lot of talent, we get a lot of minor league players, Double-A and Triple-A guys, and a lot of Major League veterans will come down there as well. It's a very competitive league. Nobody is there to joke around, everybody's there to work, and improve. You see 10 year veterans playing next to guys who have never been above Hi-A, and it makes everybody better."

Quiroz thinks those leagues have really prepared him not just for minor league ball, but for Major League Baseball as well. Scouts and coaches consistently praise Quiroz's defense, both the physical, blocking balls and an above average arm, and the mental side, where Quiroz has shown poise beyond his years in handling pitchers and calling games.

"I take pride in my defense, all aspects of it. A couple of days ago I was catching, and the pitcher was leaving the ball up. I got the nod from my manager, and I went out and talked to him, just calmed him down, letting him know what he was doing wrong. You can't talk down to those guys, you're just trying to help them."

It's a part of the game that Quiroz has that many of the catchers in the Arizona Fall League, even those generally thought to be 'ahead' of him, don't possess.

"I'm down here to get better, and there's always ways you can get better," he says before heading down to the bullpen to warm up that day's starter, "but even in the short times I've been to the big leagues, it's amazing how much you can pick up when you're there, if you're watching and trying to learn."

Though he hit only .229 in his limited time at Triple-A in 2005, nobody is doubting Quiroz's ability to produce at the plate. Through October 11th Quiroz was hitting over .300 in the AFL, and despite the injuries, he doesn't consider this year a 'write off.'

"I've still got a lot of baseball to play this year, and I still think I can make this a successful season."

James Renwick covers the Arizona Fall League annually for Scout.com.


Northsiders Report Top Stories