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The ’91 Bulls: Caraballo creates havoc on basepaths

January 31st, 2012 · 1 Comment · '91 Durham Bulls, Baseball

Ramon CaraballoRamon Caraballo arrived in Durham in the spring of 1991 with a reputation as a man who made things happen. One season earlier he had tied for the minor league lead with 14 triples while swiping 41 bases for Burlington in the low Class A Midwest League. Those numbers would have been even more impressive had his season not been curtailed by a knee injury that limited him to 102 games.

Caraballo’s package of speed and power led Baseball America to rank him as Atlanta’s No. 7 prospect heading into the ’91 campaign. But the diminutive infielder, who clocked in at 5-foot-7, 150 pounds, found the going tougher in the Bull City. His on-base percentage plummeted to .312 from a stellar .377 and his power tailed off, as he totaled just 27 extra-base hits after collecting 39 in 1990.

He still brought plenty of excitement to the Bulls attack, however, as skipper Grady Little greenlighted him at nearly every opportunity. When Caraballo reached first it was a foregone conclusion he wouldn’t linger there long. He led the league in both stolen bases (53) and times caught stealing (23). In one memorable late July game against the Frederick Keys, Caraballo swiped four bases, crossing the plate on the front end of a double steal to cap the scoring in a 3-0 Durham win.

And while Caraballo managed just six long balls on the year, the switch-hitter did an admirable Mickey Mantle impression for one week, homering four times in a five-game span after failing to connect in the season’s first 89 contests. Even though his offensive output didn’t match his ’90 showing, he was named to the Carolina League’s postseason all-star squad as a utility man.

Signed as a shortstop out of the Dominican Republic in 1988, Caraballo settled in at second base for Durham after having logged time at short, second, and in the outfield earlier in his career. Though he had plenty of arm for shortstop, he tended to rush his throws, contributing to 35 errors in 93 games for Burlington in 1990. His range and quickness were better suited to second, where he appeared more relaxed with a shorter throw to make.

Caraballo’s batting line took off after he moved on to Double-A Greenville to open the following season. In 24 games he hit .312 with a .398 on-base percentage and .473 slugging mark, forcing a quick promotion to Triple-A Richmond where his game plateaued. He hit .281/.323/.360 in 101 games there, numbers he nearly replicated upon his return in ’93 (.272/.322/.383). That was enough, however, to earn his first ticket to Atlanta, where he appeared in six games, primarily as a defensive replacement.

There would be no room for him in Atlanta during the strike-shortened 1994 season, when he actually took a step backward and spent most of the summer back in Greenville. That fall the Braves shipped him to the Cardinals for minor league slugger Aldo Pecorilli. Caraballo got his break in St. Louis in ’95, appearing in 34 games for the Cardinals and hitting .202/.269/.323 in 99 at-bats. His failure to make frequent enough contact (33 strikeouts, 6 walks) spelled the end of his big league career.

Caraballo later surfaced in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan, hitting .324 in 105 at-bats for the President Lions in 1997. When his playing career ended he moved into the coaching ranks, serving as the hitting coach for the Cubs’ entry in the Dominican Summer League for several years. Caraballo moved to the Orioles organization in 2010, working as Baltimore’s Dominican field supervisor. He’ll be back in his old role as hitting coach this year, for the Orioles’ DSL club.

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  • mercedes pena

    is ramón caraballo coaching in dominican republic orioles league or he is in the minor league