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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

5/15/22 : Spotlight Series - Three Young Catchers

Written by Steve Potter

In between writing the minor league roundups, extended spring reports and weekly and monthly standouts I thought I’d intersperse a few player spotlights 😎 - perhaps some fellas you haven’t heard much about. Today’s spotlight is on three catchers that continue to show both promise and upward bound ability in their play.

Andrik Nava - Jersey Shore Blue Claws - 20 years old - signed as international free agent 7/20/18 - Cabimas, Venezuela

Andrik can flat out hit, it earned him a High A roster spot out of spring training despite never appearing in a Low A game previously. He’s one of the ten youngest position players in this year’s South Atlantic League. We first saw him in action in 2019 as a 17 year old playing for the Phillies West team in the Gulf Coast League. He excelled as a hitter that season posting a .314 batting average in 156 AB’s playing 27 of the 44 games he appeared in as a DH. With 2020 lost to the pandemic it was hopeful that he might be on the Threshers roster in 2021 but a shoulder injury limited him to just 3 FCL games.

This spring he was back to good health and earned a roster spot with Jersey Shore. He’s played in 12 games to date and is hitting .314 in 35 AB’s with a .405 OBP catching in 7 of those contests and serving as DH in the others.

Defensively he’s still working on his overall skillset with a focus on things such as blocking, pitch calling and receiving/framing and isn’t as advanced as his Jersey teammates Nick Matera and Karl Ellison in those regards but the team assignment with two more experienced catchers will surely help him continue to develop. Offensively he’s very capable and has delivered hits in seven of the twelve games he’s played and reached base in nine of the contests. He’s got quick hands and puts the ball in play ( 14 % strikeout rate in his career to date ) with a gap to gap approach.

One to watch develop - has shown projectable big league skills as a hitter, if the defense catches up he’s capable of moving to the top of the ladder rung.

Andrik Nava - photo by Michael Dolcemascolo

Arturo DeFreitas - Clearwater Threshers - 20 years old - signed as international free agent 3/13/18 - Maracay, Venezuela

Arturo is the primary catcher for the Threshers and has excelled thus far in all aspects this season. He’s hitting a solid .267 in 86 AB’s ( 23 games ) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. Defensively he’s thrown out 16 of 41 ( 39 % ) of would be base stealers in a track meet league ( due to the limited pickoff attempts rule ) which is outstanding given the frequency that runners attempt to swipe bags in the early going of the season. He’s a sound communicator with his pitching staff, well respected and has both good receiving and blocking skills. The arm strength and pop times are also very good as indicated by the caught stealing percentage and eye witness ( ours ) accounts.

He spent the entire 2018 season in the Dominican Summer League - 2019 and 2020 were lost seasons - one due to injury, the other to the pandemic. In 2021 he came stateside and appeared in a combined 21 games with the FCL Phillies and Clearwater. He also participated in ‘21 Fall Instructs which set the stage for this year.

The skills are there to continue to advance - with continued good health Arturo is another one to watch climb the ladder.

Arturo DeFreitas - photo by Casey Burns

Edward Barboza - Extended Spring Training - 21 years old - signed as international free agent 2/19/18 - Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela

We’ve watched Edward on the backfields both this season in extended spring and last year in Florida Coast League play. He has shown a plus arm, good hands and blocks balls in the dirt very well. Very athletic and can run really fast, it isn’t just “good for a catcher” speed but rather a “fast as heck” speed 😎. In many of the games we’ve seen him he’s led off. Has a really good bat - hit .302 in 2019 in the Dominican Summer League in 42 games ( 126 AB’s ) and .292 in 24 AB’s last year in the FCL with a .370 OBP. Strikeout rate to date is 20 %, he’s generally gonna put it in play - gap to gap tendency - has 18 extra base hits in 212 pro AB’s.

His game and profile remind me a bit of fellow organization mate and country man Rafael Marchan albeit Edward is a right handed hitter only whereas Rafael switch hits. The quickness and defensive abilities are much alike as is the build.

Edward continues to work hard on the backfields with this season’s GCL season in sight however he’s definitely an option for a full season roster spot should a need occur.

Edward Barboza - photo by Casey Burns

Catching Mechanics :

Over the past few seasons we’ve seen more and more receivers on one knee to receive pitches even with runners on base.

The primary reason for the one knee approach is to set a lower target and also to better frame pitches down in the lower quadrants of the strike zone or close to it. I decided to ask a few catchers and coaches in the Phillies system whether they believed being in the one knee position made it more difficult to block pitches in the dirt. I even asked a few former Phillies receivers who are now in other organizations either as a player or coach. I won’t list their responses by name but there is somewhat of a theme to the answers - namely athleticism is a factor with the one knee approach along with knowing the pitchers command and repertoire. There are some who are not for the method at all and others who feel more comfortable in the set up. Recurring thought was it’s a personal preference - in other words not a one size fits all. Sounds to me like it’s not going by the wayside 😎.

Here are the answers I got back :

Question : Is it more difficult to block pitches if down on one knee to begin with ?

“You have to be athletic and anticipate it being in dirt if you call off speed. It is the same thing even if in a one knee down stance.”

“It’s a personal preference, like anything if you work at it and get comfortable it can work just as well to be on one knee (works better for some), depending on flexibility, comfort, athleticism, one may be better than another.”

‘For me it easier to block with one knee down. Some guys feel stuck when they do so they block from a traditional stance. It’s all about preference.”

“I think it’s different for everybody. For me I like the one knee stance so all I have to do is turn my glove over to block the ball. The thing that the one knee stance hurts is the ability to block side to side. So with that said it depends on who the pitcher is and their ability to command the ball.”

“It can be blocked with a knee down, although for me it is a bit uncomfortable because I can't move well to the sides, that's why I always prefer to set up in the traditional position to block.”

“Easier knee down.”

“ I do not feel comfortable starting on my knee about being able to block, there are some pitches that are not strikes and many times they are far from the plate.”

“For me it is easier because with one knee down I am closer to the ground.”

‘No, it’s way easier! You’re already on the ground with your knee.”

“If it’s not around the plate it can be but I am always positioned with my knees up with two strikes or someone on base.”

“Not necessarily more difficult, very dependent on both the athletic ability of the catcher and the control of the pitcher. It’s not for everyone but can help some with mobility issues.”

“ I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult. You have less range but in a one knee stance you are half way to a blocking position.

Depends on how far the pitcher misses.”

“My opinion is that it’s more difficult, one knee catching started a few years ago and it seems everyone is doing it even with runners on base.”

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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