Friday, March 11, 2016

Parsing the catchers, part two

Stuart Turner has,
according to Baseball
Reference, thrown out
35 percent of base
stealers in the minors.
Stuart Turner is frequently on prospect lists for the Twins. Baseball America, for example, lists him this spring as the organization's No 16 prospect; at No. 23. The 2013 third-rounder was regarded as the best collegiate catcher in the land his junior year.

But he simply has not hit as a pro. His defensive chops will likely get him to the major leagues anyway, but he brings Drew Butera to mind: Good receiver, not good enough with the bat to be a regular. Still, virtually every list you'll find as Turner as the best catching prospect in the organization.

He spent last summer in Double A Chattanooga, and so one would expect that he's ticketed for Triple A Rochester. Problem: One would also expect that John Hicks and Juan Centeno, the duo I discussed in part one, will be in Rochester. I doubt there's playing time for all three.

Then there's Carlos Paulino, who split 2015 between Rochester and Chattanooga. Paulino's arm really stood out to me last week when I watched the catchers during infield and pitcher fielding drills; his throws made a audibly louder snap than anybody else's when they hit the infielder's glove.

Carlos Paulino's
career caught
stealing is 31
Paulino is a couple years older than Turner (who is himself less than a year younger than presumptive major league catcher John Ryan Murphy), and this is his third organization. He started in the Marlins system, then went to the Pirates chain. The Dominican has had only two seasons of more than 300 at-bats. so he's been basically a back-up catcher in the minors, hardly the fast track.

There's a lot more to catcher defense than arm strength, of course; pitch-calling, pitch framing, pitch blocking. I'm hardly expert enough to evaluate Paulino's skills in those areas, or Turner's either. But I do see them running into a numbers crunch. There's four guys ahead of them at the next two steps up from Chattanooga, and, as I'll discuss in part three, two pushing up the ladder right behind them.

Minor league teams often carry three catchers, and the Twins may have that in mind for their high-level farm clubs. Presumably Turner will be the playing time priority. But I doubt he's ever going to hit enough to make a genuine impact on the major league team.

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