- Full name Yuniesky Betancourt
- Born 01/31/1982 in Santa Clara, Cuba
- Profile Ht.: 5'10" / Wt.: 205 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- Debut 07/28/2005
Organization Prospect Rankings
As if they weren't loaded with shortstop prospects already, Seattle added to the strongest position in its system by signing Betancourt, a Cuban defector, in January. He received a four-year major league contract worth $3.65 million as general manager Bill Bavasi called him the equivalent of a first- or second-round pick. He starred at the 2000 World Junior Championship, where the Mariners first spotted Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Blackley, hitting .429 as Cuba won the bronze medal. He fled Cuba on a raft in 2003, eventually landing in Mexico, and didn't play in 2004. Agent Jaime Torres showcased Betancourt's skills by bringing him to several big league training sites last spring. He's a live-bodied athlete with all-around skills. Betancourt makes consistent hard contact, and while he doesn't have loft power, he's strong enough to drive his share of balls into the gaps. He has well above-average speed. Where Betancourt will wind up defensively is uncertain. He has the actions, feet and hands to play shortstop, as well as enough arm strength. But he spent his last three seasons in Cuba at second base because he was on the same Villa Clara club with longtime Cuban national team shortstop Eduardo Paret. The organization's logjam at the position makes it possible that Betancourt will move off shortstop anyway, and third base and the outfield also are possibilities. The Mariners will give him a long look at spring training and have no definite starter at shortstop, but they plan on sending Betancourt to Double-A San Antonio to begin his U.S. career.
Minor League Top Prospects
A Cuban defector who signed a $3.65 million contact in January, Betancourt hadn't played in 2004 and was largely an unknown. His glove didn't let him stay anonymous for long. After seeing his plus range, arm and hands, PCL observers were convinced he had Gold Gloves in his future. "He's by far the best defensive prospect I've seen since I've been coaching and managing," Tucson's Chip Hale said. "His hands are special. He's going to be another Omar Vizquel." The Vizquel comparisons extend to Betancourt's bat as well, however. He has no trouble making contact, but he swings at everything and gets himself out on pitcher's pitches. Betancourt never will hit for power, and while he has average speed, that doesn't make him a basestealing threat.
The Mariners also brought in a Cuban defector in the offseason, with Betancourt signing a four-year big league contract worth $3.65 million. He fled Cuba on a raft in 2003, eventually landing in Mexico, and didn't play in 2004. He showed little rust, though, earning a June promotion to Triple-A and a big league callup at the end of July. Managers had a hard time finding enough superlatives for Betancourt's defense, saying his arm, hands and range had no equal in the minors. Gamboa said it was his footwork that was most impressive, though, and that he never saw Betancourt bobble a ball, whether in a game or when taking infield. "Every time we hit a ground ball--whether it was to first, second, third or short--it seemed like he was catching it," Runnells joked. Betancourt's defense made him a big leaguer, and his bat will determine just how valuable he is. Comparisons include Rey Ordonez and Omar Vizquel, but Betancourt could be better than that. He handles the bat well and has occasional power.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the American League in 2008
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the Pacific Coast League in 2005
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the Pacific Coast League in 2005
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the Texas League in 2005
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the Texas League in 2005