March 31, 2015 at 12:37 PM
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Mauricio Dubon was selected in the 26th round of the 2013 draft, few knew his name. But as one of the biggest risers on the SoxProspects.com rankings over the past year, he is taking positive strides toward remedying that situation.
But with Dubon, it is about more than putting just his name on the map. After all, if he were to make it to the big leagues, he would be the first native of Honduras to do so, and only the second ever player to do so who was born in the Central American country.
Around the time of the draft, there were reports about Dubon’s solid glovework, and the shortstop’s work in short-season Lowell last season bore those out. But it was his hitting .320/.337/395 that made people start to take notice. It was Dubon’s first time playing in Massachusetts, and his first taste of Red Sox Nation exceeded expectations.
“All the fans came out, it was my first time playing for a big crowd,” Dubon said. “It was really fun [playing for those fans], I really love that part of the game.”
His journey to Lowell was anything but direct. Growing up in Honduras—where baseball does not enjoy the popularity that it does in some other Latin American countries—he had to work harder to get attention on the field. It was part of why he asked a group of American “baseball missionaries” who came to Honduras if he could go back to America with them.
It worked. He first came over to the United States as a 15-year-old for the summer in 2010. He moved to California permanently a year later.
“I just came here to pursue my baseball career. I know God had a plan for me over here in the States so that's why I came,” Dubon said.
He lived with a host family in “Sac,” as he refers to Sacramento. He said that the Ritcheys are like a second mom and dad. He still visits them regularly.
Conveniently, he grew up going to an Americanized school in Honduras, so he said the culture shock was not difficult to deal with. Still, the move was not without its challenges.
“It was tough, of course,” the 20-year-old said. “Yeah, it was tough to leave my mom, my brother, leave everybody home, leave my dad and everything. Adjusting was kind of hard, but at the end of the day, it eventually paid off [because] it got me here.”
Dubon classified baseball as a growing sport in his country that has already become much larger than when he last played there. But he is acutely aware that Honduras has not produced a major leaguer in many years. Does that motivate him to reach his major league aspirations?
“Oh yeah, of course,” he replied. “Every little kid's dream that plays baseball is to play in the big leagues. I really hope to not be the only one there. Hopefully, there are more guys coming up from [Honduras]. But it would be great for my country that we have guys from there [in the majors].”
He speaks of his hopes for others from Honduras to make it because there are currently three other Hondurans in the minors that share his dream, pitchers Jorge Zavala of the Atlanta Braves, Denis Diaz of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Orlando Castro of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the smaller baseball world there, it turns out they all know each other well.
“We're pretty good friends. All four of us played together on the same team,” Dubon said. “It's pretty cool, the relationship we have.”
Dubon has been one of the standout performers in minor league camp, leading the SoxProspects.com staff to bump him up from the low-30s to his current spot at number 25 in the system rankings, one of the biggest rises based on our scouting looks over four days.
“I've been feeling great at spring training. I came in great shape and everything, added a couple pounds,” he said. “Defensively, I've been working, been busting my butt for days, but feeling pretty good right now.”
On defense, the organization’s high hopes for him were clear when he pushed the slick-fielding Raymel Flores to second base last season with Lowell, but the offense was a pleasant surprise. His spring training performance confirmed his offensive abilities, as he flashed impressive tools at the plate. He said he has been working in particular on trying to stay to the middle of the field with his approach, and trying to stay closed in his stance without jumping at the ball.
Increased patience will be something to monitor, as his aggressive approach led to him walking only nine times and striking out just 26 times in 274 plate appearances last season. Another aspect of his offensive game that could use development is stealing bases, as he was caught eight times with only seven successful thefts. It was a focus for him this offseason.
“I improved my running technique a lot, trying to get a couple extra steps,” he said.
Ticketed for his first full season assignment, as the starting shortstop for Low A Greenville, Dubon will likely play alongside some of the best infield prospects in the Red Sox system and all of baseball, including Rafael Devers, Michael Chavis, and before long, Yoan Moncada. For Dubon, it will be just the next stop of many in his journey to represent his home country in the majors.
Photo credit: Mauricio Dubon by Kelly O'Connor
Matt Huegel is managing editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.