Baldoquin ready to put in work after slow start
Shortstop says he'll be mentally and physically stronger next season
The 2015 season was a trying one for Roberto Baldoquin, the Cuban shortstop who inked an $8 million signing bonus just 10 months ago. It officially came to an end on Saturday, the day the Angels' instructional-league workouts wrapped up. Baldoquin is in Miami now, along with his parents and his brother and his uncle.
The work will begin again very soon.
"No rest," Baldoquin said in a phone interview. "You can't relax in this game. I'll take a week off, then prepare myself even harder to come back in better shape physically and mentally next season."
This past summer marked Baldoquin's first taste of competitive action in more than two years, a product of his defection from Cuba and all of the complications that came with it. He arrived at the Angels' Spring Training facility in Tempe, Ariz., in late March, as a 20-year-old with no grasp of the English language.
About a month later, Baldoquin missed seven weeks with a strained left shoulder.
By the end of his first professional season at Class A Advanced Inland Empire, Baldoquin had posted a .235/.266/.294 slash line, with 12 errors and one home run in 77 games.
"It wasn't the kind of year I was hoping for," Baldoquin said in Spanish, "but I'll keep working hard to get better next year."
When the Angels first signed Baldoquin, their hope was that he would be Major League-ready by the end of the 2016 season, at which point he could take over as the starting shortstop when Erick Aybar reaches free agency. It was an ambitious timeline from the start, and a nearly unforeseeable one now.
"I'm not going to say anything is out of the realm of possibility," Angels director of player development Bobby Scales said. "That'd be foolish of me. Who knows what happens in a complete year of development where he has a better understanding of the culture and of what playing in the United States is all about. I don't know what the ETA is. He'll let us know."
The numbers didn't show it, but Baldoquin -- 21 since the middle of May -- said he began to feel more comfortable down the stretch. He spent the entire summer playing shortstop, but the Angels got him some work at third and second base in instructional league, which are two positions Baldoquin spent time at in Cuba.
His most difficult adjustment of all?
"Adapting to my teammates because they didn't speak the same language as I did," Baldoquin said. "It was hard, but thankfully I was able to get accustomed to that."
Baldoquin's English is better now, though it's still a work in progress. The same can be said of his overall skill level on the field.
"He has to work on all parts of his game," Scales said of Baldoquin, who doesn't anticipate playing winter ball. "There's potential there, in all parts of his game. It's about playing in games, and doing the things on a daily basis that are hopefully going to allow him to be a Major League Baseball player. I don't think there's things you can really narrow down.
"The start was not encouraging, but we knew the type of talent he had. We knew the kind of character we had in terms of who he is as a person. We found out that we were right."