The Royals appeared to unearth a gem when they plucked first baseman Balbino Fuenmayor from the Independent League last season. After the feel-good story of 2015 struggled the first half of 2016, he’s finally rediscovered his hitting stroke in a hot July at AAA Omaha.
Balbino Fuenmayor had himself on heck of a 2015 season. The then 25-year-old Venezuelan had been a top international signing for the Toronto Blue Jays, but topped out at AA in 2013.
After playing independent league ball in 2014, the KC Royals signed him to a minor league deal. Fuenmayor then hit .358/.384/.589 with 17 home runs in 360 at bats for AA NW Arkansas and AAA Omaha before a torn ACL ended his season. Fuenmayor was also named to the Futures Team in what looked like a breakout season for the big first baseman.
Fuenmayor even picked up a fabulous nickname, getting christened “The Great Balbino” during his 2015 surge. He even cracked the top 30 Royals prospects ranking on MLBpipeline.com, checking in at no. 28 at the end of 2015.
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Then Fuenmayor turned into a singles hitter for the first three months of the 2016 season at AAA Omaha after his return from knee surgery. On June 30, Fuenmayor was slashing a rather humble .279/.320/.385 in AAA. That’s an acceptable line for a middle infielder, but was very disappointing for a 6’3″ 230 pound first baseman.
Frankly, most analysts wrote off Fuenmayor’s 2015 season as a mirage.
However, Fuenmayor is driving the ball again in July. He’s slashing .348/.368/.576 with 3 doubles and 4 home runs in 66 at bats since July 1. Suddenly, the 2015 Balbino Fuenmayor is back and making a case for a September call-up to Kansas City if he continues to hit.
Balbino Fuenmayor is now a little over one year past his injury. While he managed to return this spring, it’s not surprising that it took a full year for him to get his power back. His legs probably haven’t been up to full strength, and it sapped the power from his base.
At this point, Fuenmayor is looking like that guy that took the Kansas City Royals system by storm in 2015. The best part for Fuenmayor is that with designated hitter Kendrys Morales a free-agent after the 2016 season, he just might get an opportunity to grab a job with the big club in 2017.
If the Royals continue to struggle and become a seller at the trade deadline, Fuenmayor could get the call to Kansas City to show what he can do if general manager Dayton Moore deals Morales.
Fuenmayor may be 26-years-old, but his path to the big leagues once again looks clear. A strong finish to the season will set him up to make a push for a roster spot on the 2017 Kansas City Royals.