Hey guys, this is the start of a new series I’ll be going around the diamond talking about the the state of each position, who I was excited to see at the start of the season. Who I wasn’t expecting to come back, but did. And who stood out in 2016. Today I get things rolling with the catchers position.
Coming into the year the Catching position didn’t have a ton of big names I was looking forward to seeing but there were some:
Topping the list was Yankee prospect Luis Torrens, he missed all of 2015 with a torn labrum. He put himself on the map in 2014 with a strong showing defensively and solid offensive skills. Unfortunately he missed the 1st 90 games this year as he continued to recover from the shoulder injury and rehabbed for 12 games in the NY/Penn league. I didn’t get a chance to see him but my friend Audie who works for the Riverdogs got a lot of looks:
“Torrens coming off of his injury has been optimistic in his return. His bat hasn’t quite come back to him just yet (hitting just .174 in 31 games), but he seems to show proof of improvements with his approach. Behind the plate he’s thrown out 18 of 44 runners, a 41% throw out rate. His arm is strong, but accuracy sometimes evades him trying to rush a throw.”
He finished strong and got the average up to .230 and every report I read said he’s a very good receiver. I think there’s a decent chance he’s back in Charleston the Spring at least for a little while.
Red Sox prospect Austin Rei was considered a steal when he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft out of U of Washington.. He had a strong defensive reputation and most evaluators thought he would hit. He struggled mightily post draft both with the bat and with the glove but I was wondering what a full off season would do for him. I got a few looks at Rei and he’s got decent pop but the swing is long and the bat speed is fringy. Twice I saw him take a fastball down the middle for strike three, he was obviously looking off speed. Which is a sign of a guess hitter. Defensively he’s an average receiver with a strong arm. He may find a career as a backup.
I suspected the Orioles would send one of Alex Murphy or Jonah Heim back to the Sally as they both missed time last year due to injury. It turned out to be Murphy and he has a reputation of a decent receiver with a good arm but often inaccurate throws. I got 2 looks but 1 behind the dish the other game he played 1B. I thought he looked good as a receiver and his arm wasn’t tested in my look. Offensively he showed above average pop but a long swing and contact issues are holding back the hit.
Braves 2015 2nd round pick Lucas Herbert, was Koby Allard’s catcher in high school he’s known for being a good receiver and also his leadership qualities. I got three looks at Herbert but only one at catcher (twice he was DH). He’s got a fast bat and turned on some quality fastballs. He does struggle with soft away though. Defensively, again it was just one look but: he’s athletic, looked very good receiving the ball and had a strong arm and quick release.
Seby Zavala of the White Sox showed some significant pop in Arizona post draft. I got a couple of looks at Seby, he handles the bat well and showed some pretty good defensive chops. Guest writer Dan Victor wrote about was impressed with Seby and I agree with him, he can play. Scouting Seby Zavala, C, Kannapolis
Jakson Reetz A 2014 3rd rd draft pick by the Nats, At the time of draft Reetz was known for having a polished bat and potential for average or above power and raw defensively. I got a couple of looks at Reetz. He’s got some bat speed but the swing has some length to it. Needs work with pitch recognition. Defensively Reetz is a good receiver with a strong arm and average release.
Ali Sanchez of the Mets, Sanchez signed as a 16 year old out of Venezuela, now 19 he’s heralded as a good receiver he’s athletic and handles the running game well. He can also hit. (He spent the whole year in the NY Penn League). So he’ll be on my players to watch list next year.
I was surprised he came back:
Yermin Mercedes got into 64 games with Delmarva in 2015 and performed pretty well with the bat. The Orioles have depth at catcher in there system so that may have played a roll in his return. Mercedes destroyed SAL league pitching this year to the tune of .353/.411/.579 over 91 games before being promoted to Frederick. I got a couple of looks, he’s got a short quick stroke and the ball jumps off of his bat. I think he’ll hit for contact and average power. I only saw him catch one game and he didn’t look good he was having issues receiving the ball. Two wild pitches but close to three others. He made one throw to 2nd and it was below average. I’ve heard from others that he looked better in there looks. That’s the peril of one look but I remain somewhat skeptical about the defense.
Chase Vallot got into 80 games with Lexington in 2015 and hit.219/.331/.427 and that .208 ISO is the real deal. He’s a strong young man with a long swing but he generates good bat speed with lift. He does struggle with pitch recognition and strikes out a lot. The question is will the hit play high enough for him to get to his power in games. I got two looks last year and two this year. He an average receiver with an average arm. Needs to quicken the release.
Who stood out
Xavier Fernandez, Lexington (Royals) Fernandez had a good year splitting the job with Chase Vallot. In 92 games he hit .259/.320/.387. I didn’t get to see him so I called on a friend and colleague who sees a lot of Lexington Clinton Riddle for his thoughts. And Clinton was very generous with his time.
” Fernandez seems like that sort of prospect who doesn’t get a ton of press, but then ends up on a lot of watch lists. He’s got good pop, he’s aggressive at the plate but has a pretty good eye and will draw more than enough walks, and he’s pretty steady. He’s got a great arm and will gun down runners on a regular basis. His glove work and mobility behind the dish could use a little improvement, but he’s not going to hurt you back there either. As it stands at the moment, I see no reason that he won’t at least turn into a great backup at the higher levels. The arm would carry a lot of catchers, but his offense is icing on the cake. I can’t see how he wouldn’t eventually be a solid ML catcher.”
You can find Clinton’s writing and photography at John Sickels Minor League Ball. He also edits for the Scouting Tribune. He’s a good guy and he know’s his stuff. I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to him again.
Chris Rabago, Asheville (Rockies). Asheville is my home park and I saw a lot of Rabago. He doesn’t wow you offensively, he handles the bat pretty well but no power to speak of. Where he shined though was defensively. He’s a very good receiver with a strong arm.
This wraps up the catchers position I’ll be back with a look at 1B next week.