In an organization loaded with an array of potential shortstops at the minor league level, it is easy to ignore players at the same position that garner less fanfare than the more prominent prospects. Entering his fifth season in the Yankees’ farm system, shortstop Angel Aguilar displays resourcefulness playing three positions on the infield and developing untapped power over the past three seasons.
Initially signed by the Yankees before his 17th birthday out of Barinas, Venezuela in 2012, Aguilar opened his career in the Dominican Summer League and had early difficulties adjusting to both pro ball and the challenges unique to foreign-born players who must adapt to new surrounding before playing minor league baseball in the United States.
“Things were different for me early on in my career for the first time, like food and the language barrier,” Aguilar said through an interpreter. “During my second year, I felt pretty comfortable. The only thing I’m still working on is the language.”
Although a raw commodity in his first few seasons in the Yankees’ system, Aguilar began showing flashes of promise during the 2014 season with the Gulf Coast Yankees and produced career highs in batting average (.311), on-base percentage (.373), and slugging percentage (.536). Perhaps the biggest surprise for some was his unprecedented display of power, producing seven home runs in 151 at-bats.
“First of all, I thank God for all my success that season. Second of all, I think I have worked hard the last two years with my training regimen, but the results haven’t been where I want them to be, but I am always working.”
Aguilar eventually reached as high as the Charleston River Dogs in the South Atlantic League and experienced similar difficulties as he endured in his first year in professional baseball. Due to the presence of then-top prospect Jorge Mateo, Aguilar played every infield position except for first base despite being a natural shortstop. His offensive totals regressed with 102 strikeouts in 354 at-bats and declined in every offensive category.
“The adjustments on the defensive side at third base was pretty easy for me because it was a position I used to play,” Aguilar said. “There were times that year where I would strike out twice per game and for me I needed to simplify things and get a good pitch to hit and put a good swing on the ball.”
Returning to Charleston as a third baseman for the 2016 season, Aguilar compensated selectivity for power and clubbed eight home runs in 64 games. By mid-season, Aguilar moved to short-season Staten Island and looked to improve his approach at the plate and build confidence. Batting just .221 in his first 38 games in Staten Island, Aguilar is hopeful he can progress and also improve in all facets of the game after returning to shortstop full-time for the first time since his GCL breakout in 2014.
“I don’t want to swing at bad pitches. If it is in an area, I cannot do anything with I want to lay off and take walks. I try to work on all areas of my game and most importantly maintain focus so I can become a more consistent player,” Aguilar said.
Entering his age-21 season, Aguilar is a work in progress, whose shown flashes of promise with plus power for the shortstop position and experience playing full-season baseball. Aguilar’s approach at the plate is an aggressive one, where the goal is to swing the bat to reach base rather than taking pitches. In the field, Aguilar has a versatile glove that can fill most infield spots but needs to avoid errors as he returns to the shortstop position full-time.
“He mostly played third base over at Charleston,” Staten Island Yankees manager Dave Bialas said. He’s done an excellent job since coming to Staten Island. He made some nice plays in the field. He is battling offensively right now, but what we are looking at is his play at shortstop. He is young and has a good future ahead of him.”