Rene Aqueron, the short-season Foreign-Born Player of the Year, swung a hot bat at the start of the 2005 campaign and never cooled off.
The 24-year-old, who was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, reached base 10 times over his first three games of the season for the Bluefield Orioles. In those three games, he went 5-for-6 with a homer, double, five runs scored and five walks.
Not a bad way to start a Minor League career.
Using his scorching debut as a springboard, Aqueron pummeled Appalachian League hurlers throughout the circuit's 68-game season. The versatile switch-hitter, who finished the year with a league-leading .405 average, found a way to collect base hits no matter what the circumstance. Aqueron hit .495 on the road, .437 against righties, and .426 with runners in scoring position. He collected a hit from every spot in the lineup while playing defensively at second base, third base and designated hitter.
Those are impressive numbers for any player's first season in the Minor Leagues, but especially so considering that Aqueron was signed by the Orioles as an undrafted free agent. After graduating from Indiana's Bradley State University in 2004, Aqueron was overlooked by all 30 Major League teams in that year's draft.
David Stockstill, the Orioles' farm director, was perplexed by this fact. "I was very surprised he slipped through the cracks; our scouts liked him very much," he recalled. "We invited him to a Spring Training tryout and signed him on the strength of that."
Stockstill feels that there is much to recommend about Aqueron. "He's a very hard-working player," he said. "He has excellent hands and good instincts, works the count and is outstanding at putting the ball in play. We could have moved him up during the season, but we'll worry about that next year. We felt that at Bluefield, he had the best chance to be successful."
Successful he was, but Aqueron still has a long way to go. After all, Bluefield is in the Rookie leagues, the lowest rung of the Minor League ladder.
"Aqueron needs a defensive position," Stockstill said, "as opposed to three or four. We're looking at third base for the long term. In 2006 we'll start him at (Class A Advanced) Delmarva, and with another successful beginning, we can move him on from there."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.