LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — We will know soon enough whether Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette strikes gold with the signing of former San Francisco Giants prospect Francisco Peguero, but Duquette is definitely making it clear how highly he thinks of the 25-year-old outfielder.
Speaking with local media Sunday night here at the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World, Duquette said Peguero, who has started just nine games in the major leagues over the past two seasons, can be an everyday ballplayer at the big league level.
"He has ability," Duquette sad. "He has good tools. He can run, throw and field, and he can hit. The only thing that he lacks is power, but we like him. He's a scout's player. But we like him, and he will be a good addition to the team because he can play all three outfield positions and he's a .300 lifetime hitter in the minors, so he lacks power and really opportunity. He's never had an extended opportunity in the big leagues."
Duquette said Peguero, who was the Giants' No. 2 prospect by MLB.com and fifth by Baseball America following the 2011 season, fits the Orioles' defensive-minded philosophy well and offers flexibility. As a right-handed hitter with unique splits – he hit right-handed pitching better (.310) than left-handed pitching (.294) last season at Triple-A – he could draw regular at-bats, Duquette said.
All he needs is an opportunity, Duquette said. But Peguero has no minor league options remaining.
"He was a highly rated prospect in the Giants system," Duquette said. "Now it seems like he's ready for the big leagues. He will get an opportunity from us in spring training to show what he has. Given the opportunity and at-bats, he could emerge as a good everyday ballplayer. The fact that he puts the bat on the ball so consistently is in his favor. He just needs to learn some discipline within the strike zone. Having said that, he's such a good hitter, his on-base capability is solid and it's been solid his whole career."
You have to give Duquette credit. He's been able to unearth diamonds in the rough in the past. For examples, just look at left field, the place where Peguero would likely get most of his playing time. Two years ago, Duquette took Lew Ford out of the independent leagues. He signed Nate McLouth off the scrap heap. McLouth became $10.75 million richer this week partially thanks to Duquette's 2012 gamble.
But Francisco Peguero?
During Duquette's 20-minute session with local reporters Sunday night, he spent a good chunk of it talking about Peguero and reliever Ryan Webb, whose power sinkerballer profile is much like former closer Jim Johnson, he said.
When I asked about the franchise's difficult past week, in which Johnson was traded and McLouth and right-hander Scott Feldman signed elsewhere, Duquette said he's sticking to his plan of trying to get better by being smarter with the payroll and not by spending frivolously.
"I'd really like the focus to be on the players we're adding to help the ballclub," he said. "That's why I wanted to talk about Peguero."
He definitely also spoke about the pitching, the need for a left-handed hitter, the options at second base, and the return of the club's core players, but he probably spoke about Peguero more than any other subject.
But I'm probably preaching to the choir, right?
Who knows? Duquette could make us all believers in the end. He's done it before. But just based on all the money that's been spent elsewhere across the majors, that's asking for a whole lot of faith.