It is always fun to root for the underdog, to see those players who have persevered throughout their careers, facing struggles and uncertainty head-on while refusing to give up on their dreams. It is part of the reason why players like Paulo Orlando quickly become fan favorites; they are a great story and, on a team like the Kansas City Royals, an embodiment of the never say die attitude that permeates the squad.
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That type of a story is what makes the success of Balbino Fuenmayor so much fun to watch. Entering Friday’s slate of action, Fuenmayor has posted a .337/.387/.531 batting line in Northwest Arkansas, hitting four home runs and seven doubles. His performance last week was strong enough where Fuenmayor won the Texas League Player of the Week award.
Fuenmayor took a rather interesting route to come to the Kansas City Royals organization. Back when he was first signed by the Toronto Blue Jays back in 2007, Fuenmayor was a highly regarded prospect. Unfortunately, he just did not pan out, striking out in roughly a third of his at bats while struggling to get on base. After failing to get any higher than the Lansing Lugnuts in the Midwest League, Fuenmayor was released by the Blue Jays.
That release resulted in a complete transformation. Playing first for the Frontier Greys of the independent Frontier League, then with Les Capitales de Quebec in the Canadian-American Association, Fuenmayor turned into that player that the Blue Jays had expected. In his time playing in the independent leagues, Fuenmayor posted a .331/.370/.575 batting line with 36 home runs and 43 doubles. That transformation also manifested in the Winter Leagues, where Fuenmayor became a power hitting phenom, even blasting ten home runs for the Caribes de Anzoategui in the Venezuelan Winter League. Could it be that everything had finally fallen into place for this former highly regarded prospect?
Signed to a minor league deal by the KC Royals, Balbino Fuenmayor has continued his personal assault on opposing pitchers. Punishing baseballs for crimes against humanity, Fuenmayor has posted a .337/.387/.531 batting line in his first season at the AA level. He has four home runs and seven doubles, showing that his power stroke may be somewhat sustainable.
Naturally, with this type of breakout, one has to wonder whether or not it is just a one month fluke. In the case of Fuenmayor, he may well be able to sustain this performance. While his batting average on balls in play is high at .392 thus far, Fuenmayor also has a 23.1% line drive rate. His ground ball and fly ball rates are relatively close to league average, so it is not as though Fuenmayor is having popups drop into a fortuitous location between defenders.
While it may still be some time before Balbino Fuenmayor has a realistic chance at joining the KC Royals, especially given the presence of Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales, he has turned into the player the Blue Jays expected. Not bad for someone that was literally on the scrap heap at this time last year.