Jorge Vazquez was the toast of Mexican League last year, hitting .339 with 18 homeruns and 59 RBIs in 56 games for the Tigres de Quintana Roo.
Following the season, he played in the Mexican Pacific League for the Tomateros de Culiacan, finishing in the top five in the league in slugging percentage (.636), batting average (.348), homeruns (15), extra-base hits (27), on-base percentage (.416) and runs batted in (46).
The 27-year-old first-baseman signed with the Yankees on December 7th, 2008 and was assigned to Double-A Trenton where he hasn't missed a beat.
Thunder manager Tony Franklin has nothing but good things to say about Vazquez and the added pop he's added to an otherwise small-ball Trenton lineup.
"He's really offered us another run-producer in the middle of that lineup, and he's got the kind of power to alter the game with one swing of the bat," Franklin said. "He represents a dangerous threat in the lineup, and he gives the hitter in front of him a few more pitches to hit and I think Gonzo [Edwar Gonzalez] is going to benefit from hitting behind him. It's a domino effect."
Vazquez, in albeit a small sample size, was among the Trenton leaders in average (.299), homeruns (7), OPS (.889), total bases (61), and slugging percentage (.570) in his first 28 games. In what is widely acknowledged as a pitcher's park in Trenton, Vazquez has put on a staggering power display. Vazquez, through the help of an interpreter, hasn't noticed.
"I haven't really noticed the size of the park," Vazquez explained, "because I'm not really trying to hit home runs. What I try and do is just hit the ball hard and let it go where it goes. Right now I'm focusing on adjusting to the faster pitches and trying to hit the ball hard when they give me a pitch to hit."
According to Vazquez, that is the biggest adjustment he's had to make.
"In Mexico, it's a lot more breaking pitches, off-speed stuff, so you have more time to react and make an adjustment to the pitch," he said.
"Here it's about having a short swing and recognizing the pitch earlier to be able to drive it but what I can take with me from Mexico is my ability to make adjustments in-game with the pitcher and situations. It's not just about making the adjustment after the at-bat but from pitch to pitch."
Vazquez's ability to hit all kinds of pitches has not escaped Franklin's notice.
"He's a really good hitter," Franklin said. "He can handle almost anything that you throw at him and you don't see many young hitters do that today, they're usually pretty dominant with either one pitch or another. George can hit breaking balls and fastballs really well, both of them."
Despite being a very advanced hitter, Vazquez's defense is a bit of a work in progress, and may lead to him being used in more of a DH/pinch-hitter role. Although he has only one error on the season, his range at first leaves something to be desired but that is something that he is working to improve.
"My strength defensively is that I have really good hands but I need to work on my reaction and quickness," explained Vazquez. "If I add a little more quickness and reaction, with a better physique, I'll be a better first baseman, which is what I'm working on right now."
When asked how Vazquez compares to Miranda developmentally, another player in a similar situation, Franklin does see some similarities.
"Well, one's left and one's right but they're both first basemen with pretty good power. Miranda's proven that he can hit, in Triple-A and he's been to the Arizona Fall League, a quick stint in the major leagues.
"I think Vazquez is starting to prove the same thing. George might have a little more power right now and he's a very experienced hitter, especially for someone as young as he is."
Vazquez, like Miranda when he was brought in, is old for his league but projects as a fast-mover who could have an impact as early as next year. The signing of Texeira, which could be seen by some as the death knell of Vazquez's potential career with the Yankees, does not have Vazquez worried in the least.
"Texeira is already a big-name player in the big leagues," said Vazquez, "but that's not something that I'm worried about right now. I'm just focused on making the most of the opportunity that I have, continuing to improve and get better, taking advantage of what I have, and if I get to the big leagues I don't care if it's as a DH or what, I'm just working on getting there right now."
If Vazquez continues to hit like he's capable of hitting, it shouldn't be too long until he forces the Yankees to find a role for him with the big club.
Vazquez Off To A Hot Start
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