Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Moises, Moises, Moises

That's Moises Sierra, native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

In 2007, at age 18, Sierra batted just .203 with the Gulf Coast League Jays.

Toronto nevertheless decided to skip the young outfielder up to the Lansing Lugnuts in 2008.

The 19-year-old started off his MWL career like gangbusters, notching seven hits in three games vs. Fort Wayne from April 4-6.  He finished the month with another three-hit outing and entered May wielding a .310 batting average.  From there, however, the teenager's season took a nosedive.  Following the All-Star Game, he hit a dismal .225 with only 14 walks compared to 62 strikeouts.

When I arrived in Lansing in 2009, I heard rumors that the Blue Jays were considering moving Moises Sierra from the outfield to the pitcher's mound.  After all, though his bat had been overmatched at the Single-A level, his throwing arm had drawn rave reviews.  My Director of Marketing swore that Sierra once picked up a ball at the warning track and fired it in to home plate without a bounce.

Sierra was not alone in his 2008 Midwest League struggles.  International signees like Sierra and Johermyn Chavez joined high school draftees like Eric Eiland, Kevin Ahrens, Justin Jackson and Mike McDade amid a young Lugs offense, with teenagers and 20-year-olds all over the field.

Both Chavez and McDade returned to Michigan's state capital in 2009.  The next year, Eiland, Ahrens and Jackson came back, having run into a wall in Class A-Advanced Dunedin.  All needed more seasoning in Lansing.  But Moises Sierra moved forward.  He enjoyed a breakthrough year with Dunedin in '09, battled through an injury-plagued 2010, blasted a career-high 18 homers for Double-A New Hampshire in 2011, played even better in 2012 for Triple-A Las Vegas, and made his MLB debut on July 31st.

An even more significant honor waited ahead:  Moises Sierra was named a starter on the Dominican Republic national team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.  Good thing, too.  Last night, facing Puerto Rico in the WBC semifinals, Sierra played a significant role with both his glove and his bat.

In the first inning:



And then, in the fifth inning:



Not bad, eh?  Helping to win the WBC semifinal for your nation is a little different from a Midwest League slump!

If you see a young Lugnuts player struggling this year, you might do well to keep Moises Sierra in mind... and so might that struggling young Lugnut take motivation in Sierra's well-earned success.


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