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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

2/5/22 : Position Player Depth - Catchers

Embarking on a limited series of articles on minor league depth at the position spots within the organization. I’m not one to do prospect listings nor do I put a great deal of stock in them. My take instead is to chat about multiple players in the organization and where they are in their current development. We spend a great deal of time watching these fellas play baseball and how they interact with the team and coaches. Our views obviously are subjective and predominantly predicated on our observations.

By mid month there will be multiple selected/invited minor league players at the Complex either participating in a continuation of what has been an annual formalized minor league spring mini camp ( we first observed it in 2018 ) or on rehab assignments. The full Minor league spring training is slated to begin the first week of March with pitchers and catchers initially reporting followed by position players a few days later.

Who knows when the big leaguers get their start - that’s on ongoing lockdown.

So here goes a series on minor league depth at the position spots - we start with catchers and the spots we project them to compete for this spring - that’s not to limit their possibilities though 🤓 :

Upper Levels : AAA :

Rafael Marchan - switch hitter will be 23 years old on 2/25. signed as an international free agent - 7/3/15 - San Cristobal, Venezuela. Outstanding defensive skills and more offensive ability than folks may realize. Would seemingly be the starter at LHV if doesn’t earn the MLB backup job in spring training. ( won’t be in minor league camp - is on 40 man roster )

Donny Sands - 25 years old - acquired in trade with Yankees - “pure hitting ability, displaying quick hands and a smooth right-handed swing. He slammed 18 homers in 94 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021. After years of hard work he has made himself into a capable receiver.” - MLB He will be in the mix for the big league backup role and if not that then the starter’s slot at LHV. ( won’t be in minor league camp - is on 40 man roster )

Garrett Stubbs - 28 years old - acquired in trade with Astros - LH hitter that perhaps the front runner for the big league backup job, “is a well regarded defender, has had a double-digit walk rate at every single stop in his minor league career, and has real bat-to-ball skills, is big-league ready and could have a long career as the second half of catching tandems. He has some similarities to Austin Barnes.” - crawfishboxes ( won’t be in minor league camp - is on 40 man roster )

Either AAA or AA :

Nick Matera - 25 years old - 2018 34th round draft selection - Rutgers University. Nick had become the primary catcher for Reading after having a strong ‘21 minor league spring camp but suffered a knee injury in June. Solid defender behind the dish who has a game presence, strong arm and good receiving skills. Works hard at his craft, could return to Reading after ‘22 spring camp with potential to be at Lehigh Valley as well, we see a skill set that can catch at the big league level if given the opportunity, could do very well in a back up role.

Jack Conley - 25 years old - 2018 27th round draft selection - North Carolina State University. He played in 51 games for Reading and Lehigh Valley - is a good defender. Likely a similar role as ‘21 coming out of spring camp - maybe more if opportunity arises.

Colby Fitch - 25 years old - 2017 13th round draft selection - Louisville University. Colby appeared in 39 games for Reading in 2021 even playing the outfield in four contests. Always have liked his ability as a game manager behind the dish. He will look to continue to earn playing time in spring camp with hopes of either a Reading or Lehigh Valley spring camp assignment.

AA :

Logan O’Hoppe - Will be 22 years old on 2/9. Had an outstanding 2021 season playing at three levels ( Jersey Shore, Reading and Lehigh Valley ) with the majority of the summer at Jersey Shore - 17 home runs, 58 RBIs, 19 doubles and an overall batting average of .270 in 393 AB’s. Great leadership skills, strong arm and mechanics - excelled in the Arizona Fall League - sure looks to be on the path to the big leagues. Likely breaks spring camp as the starting receiver for Reading with an eye on an in season promotion to LHV.

Herbert Iser - 24 years old - - 2019 23rd round draft selection - Dallas Baptist University. Showed flashes of raw power - hit one of the longest drives of the ‘21 season at Jersey Shore. Participated in Fall Instructs in both 2020 and 2021. Needs consistent playing time - will be in the mix for a Reading roster spot in Spring Training.

1B/C Vito Friscia - 25 years old - 2019 40th round draft selection - Hofstra University. Had a very solid 2021 campaign primarily with Jersey Shore posting a .378 on base percentage which was the second best mark in the minor league organization ( for those with at least 315 plate appearances ). He’s “Philly Tough” meaning he shows up each and every day expecting to perform even if being a little nicked up. We think he’s in the mix to open the 2022 season as a regular in the Reading lineup in a DH/1B/C multi role.

High A, Low A Levels, Complex League Team :

High A :

Juan Aparicio - will be 22 years old in May - signed 7/2/16 as an international free agent - Maracaibo, Venezuela. Since coming stateside in 2018 Juan has shown solid offensive skills, he’s posted above a .300 batting average twice in three years. Originally signed as a third basemen he has made steady progress as a catcher, at this point offense is still ahead of the defensive prowess. He played in 54 games with the low A Clearwater Threshers in 2021, will likely advance to High A Jersey Shore this spring.

Chris Burke - will be 21 years old in August - signed 7/16/19 as an international free agent - Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He played in 27 games ( 14 with Threshers and 13 FCL ) in his first stateside pro action in 2021. Posted a cumulative .270 average in 74 AB’s. Chris has been a regular for Melbourne in the Australian Baseball League since 2019. Solid defensive skills. Will play most of the season as a 20 year old - will be in the running for regular playing time - we think he can handle the High A level this season.

Arturo De Freitas - will be 22 years old in May - signed 3/13/18 as an international free agent - Maracay, Venezuela. Appeared in 21 games last season ( 13 - Threshers, 8 -FCL ). We’ve also seen him in 2019-2021 Fall Instructs. Good defensive skills, flashes of a quick bat as a hitter. Will compete in Spring Training for a full season roster spot, perhaps more.

Anthony Quirion - 24 years old - signed as an un-drafted free agent 7/20/21 - Lamar University. Saw his first pro action in eleven FCL games - we saw him play in both the FCL and Fall Instructs. First impressions are that he’s got quick hands as a hitter, we witnessed the ability to drive the ball, a triple in Fall Instructs comes to mind specifically as he tattooed the left center field wall with a laser like line drive. Defensively he will focus on catching albeit he played a good amount of time as a third baseman as well in college. A likely target location out of spring training - High A Jersey Shore.

Either High A or Low A :

Freddy Francisco - will be 21 years old on 2/7 - signed as an international free agent - 5/3/18 - Esperanza, Dominican Republic. Freddy played in 24 games at four levels in 2021 ( FCL, Clearwater, Jersey Shore and Lehigh Valley ). He had a strong ‘21 Fall Instructs Camp with a couple of home runs. We’ve liked his defensive mechanics since we first saw him in 2019 GCL action. Tools are there, needs an opportunity to play consistently. He should be in the spring mix for a roster spot with either Clearwater or Jersey Shore. Has a catcher’s build. Another young receiver that could break out with regular playing time.

Oscar Gonzalez - will play the entire season as a 21 year old - signed as an international free agent - 7/2/17 - Yaritagua, Venezuela. We’ve seen a strong arm displayed a few times, in a Reading ‘21 game he made a throw on what seemed to be a given stolen base to nail the runner. He’s also impressed yours truly with his footwork at first base when he’s played that position. Last season appeared in 27 games ( FCL, Jersey Shore and Reading ) and also participated in Fall Instructs. In a very small sample size we like the baseball instincts, strong arm and offensive capabilities. We would like to see what he’s capable of doing with more exposure. That might come at either the High or Low A level. Showing my age but he reminds me of former Phillie Bo Diaz.

Low A :

Andrik Nava - Birthdate : will play the entire season as a 20 year old - signed as an international free agent 7/2/18 - Cabimas, Venezuela. Andrik missed basically the entire 2021 season with a shoulder issue playing briefly in 3 FCL games. We saw him in 2019 GCL action as a 18 year old when he hit .314 in 156 AB’s. Defensively wasn’t as advanced as others then but that was likely more attributed to his youth as a comparable. There’s a complete toolset to develop, we think the bat currently plays ahead but the defensive skills are also there to bring out. We believe he’s healthy now and will be in the mix for a good deal of Threshers playing time.

Edward Barboza - will be 21 in April - signed 2/19/18 as an international free agent - Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela. Wirey type who played in nine 2021 FCL games and posted a .292 average. He hit .302 in 42 games ( 126 AB’s ) in the 2019 Dominican Summer League. Solid offensive skills, bat speed, weight distribution, hands. He was also active in 2021 Fall Instruct, should get a chance to compete for a full season roster spot in spring training, could earn regular playing time.

Adony Mejia - will be 21 in June - signed as an international free agent - 12/7/18 - San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Came stateside on 8/28/21 after posting a .316 batting average in 57 DSL AB’s - we saw him in both FCL action and Fall Instructs. Similar to Barboza with a Wiry build, looks to have very good mechanics as a receiver with a strong arm. Offensively we’ve seen him drive the ball with authority, also appears to run well. He should play stateside this season either in the FCL or with the Threshers - even perhaps a split of both.

Micah Yonamine - will play the entire season as a 21 year old - 2019 29th round draft selection - Iolani High School, Honolulu, HI. Appeared in 21 games between the FCL and Clearwater in 2021 - also was in Fall Instructs. Raw talent as a receiver, also plays first base. In limited times we’ve seen him has shown good plate discipline. Strong bat speed, we’ve seen him square up and drive the ball. Defensively has had some struggles with blocking and receiving albeit we’ve seen limited action. If the bat progresses as we project has upper level offensive ability. Big frame at 6’4”. He should be in the mix for a Clearwater daily lineup spot in a C/1B/DH role.

Florida Complex League :

Rickardo Perez - will play the entire season as a 18 year old - signed as an international free agent 2/2/21 - Valencia, Venezuela - ‘21 Fall Instructs was our first glimpse of Rickardo in action although brief. He appears to have good mechanics as a receiver and soft hands. At the plate we saw him hit a couple balls into the gaps in scrimmages for extra bases, also seems to run well. He played in 43 DSL games during the summer posting a .256 average and .370 OBP in 146 plate appearances. 2022 could either be stateside in the FCL else back again to the Dominican Academy for another year in the DSL. We’d like to see him stateside so we can watch 🤓.

Jackie Pertuz - will play the entire season as a 19 year old- signed as an international free agent 7/2/19 - Barranquilla, Colombia. He came stateside for ‘21 Fall Instructs, we saw him in action briefly. Left handed hitter - posted a .350 OBP in 143 plate appearances in the DSL. Could either play 2022 in FCL or DSL - just needs to accumulate experience. Since we saw him in ‘21 Instructs that’s usually indicative that an extended spring assignment and FCL roster spot is a strong possibility.

Jorge Mendez ( 18 yrs old ), Kliubert Avila ( will be 19 yrs old in May ), Solardo Rodriquez ( 18 yrs old ) and Jose Colmenarez ( 19 yrs old ) all played in the DSL in 2021 and are candidates for extended spring assignments and possible FCL roster spots at Carpenter Complex.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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