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Catching Prospects: Pop-guns and Bazookas

Last week* I covered the top position player prospects and their defense, but I wasn't really sure what to do with catchers. Quantifying catcher defense is still rather nebulous, as there's a lot of factors that are tricky to weigh. There are a couple of things that we know catchers are (mostly) responsible for, which would be controlling the running game and blocking balls.

Charted below are the top catching prospects in the game. The categories are pretty self-explanatory, but let's touch on them quickly. There is the amount of innings they caught, the stolen base percentage they allowed, stolen base attempts per inning, stolen bases per inning and passed balls per inning.

Attempts per inning is a good way to gauge a catcher's reputation. If word is out to minor league managers that the guy behind the plate has a cannon of an arm, they'll run less. On the flip side, if the scouting report says the catcher has a noodle of a throwing arm, they will let their guys run at will. In order to equalize reputation with results, there is stolen bases per inning.

I wanted to include wild pitches + passed balls per nine innings but instead settled for passed balls per inning. The difference between passed balls and wild pitches can be arbitrary; one official scorer's wild pitch is another scorer's passed ball. I opted to punt wild pitches because I found the lower I went into the minors, the more wild pitches there seemed to be. Another road block was that while I could find league averages for passed balls, I was unsuccessful finding wild pitches.


Org Level Innings SB% ATT/I SB/I PB/I
Matt Wieters BAL A+/AA 742.6 59% 12% 4.6% .004
Carlos Santana CLE A+/AA 850.3 75% 13.6% 10.2% .016
Jesus Montero NYY A 591.7 75.5% 16.6% 12.5% .019
J.P. Arencibia TOR A+/AA 874.3 68.3% 9.4% 6.4% .017
Lou Marson PHI AA 735.7 66.7% 10.2% 6.8% .006
Wilson Ramos MIN A+ 619 58.7% 10.2% 5.9% .008
Taylor Teagarden TEX AA/AAA 575.3 65% 10.4% 6.7% .005
Max Ramirez TEX AA/AAA 409.7 77.6% 15.4% 12.7% .012
Tyler Flowers CWS A+ 721.7 74.8% 18.7% 14% .015
Angel Salome MIL AA 667 76.9% 16.2% 12.4% .019
Bryan Anderson STL AA/AAA 724.3 67% 13.4% 9% .014
Austin Romine NYY A 444 82.4% 20.5% 16.9% .041
Jon Lucroy MIL A/A+ 818 57.7% 13.6% 7.8% .012
Adam Moore SEA AA 898.3 67.2% 12.2% 8.2% .026
Cole Armstrong CWS AA/AAA 780.4 72.5% 8.9% 6.4% .012
Welington Castillo CHC A+/AA 674.3 75% 9.5% 7.1% .030
Michael McKenry COL A+ 801.7 52.6% 9.7% 5.1% .012
Devin Mesoraco CIN A 614.3 82.3% 15.6% 12.9% .023
John Jaso TB AA/AAA 803.6 81.3% 16.3% 12.9% .009
James Skelton AZ A+/AA 646.6 61.4% 8.8% 5.4% .017
Pablo Sandoval SFG A+/AA 681.3 63.8% 8.4% 5.4% .007

For some context, here are the averages at each level of the minors. Catchers as a group improve at each level. Base-stealers also get a little more selective on how often they run as they move up.

AAA 3090 1327 70.00% 11.50% 8.00% .012
AA 3053 1461 67.60% 11.90% 8.00% .013
A+ 3753 1728 68.50% 14.60% 10.00% .018
A 3993 1761 69.40% 15.40% 10.70% .017

Whether or not these players can handle their position is a very big deal, as there are few catchers athletic enough to handle another position other than first base. The exceptions are few and far in-between...Craig Biggio, Brandon Inge come to mind, but most failed catching prospects shift to the far left side the defensive spectrum. If their bat isn't good enough to be an every day first baseman or DH,  the player goes from prospect to suspect in a hurry.

Some random thoughts:

  • Matt Wieters is either a cyborg from the future or is one of the descendants of the Nephilim of old. Not only can he rake, he also stops the running game cold and also is adept at blocking balls in the dirt. He can even make an omelet without cracking any eggs
  • Taylor Teagarden and Wilson Ramos are as good as advertised.
  • James Skelton and Pablo Sandoval are much better than advertised, probably because they are such oddballs.
  • Michael McKenry earns the first ever BtB "Golden Bazooka" award. Austin Romine gets the first annual "Pop-Gun" award. He reportedly has a strong arm but apparently has no clue how to utilize it. Not only did he struggle with stopping runners, he was by far the worst on this list at allowing passed balls.
  • It's a good thing Carlos Santana and Jesus Montero can hit.
  • Welington Castillo slides into the suspect category if he can't improve his plate-blocking skills. 
  • Everyone seemed to be gushing about what a great all-around catching prospect Devin Mesoraco was on draft day, but oy...what a terrible debut.

*SS  |  CF  |  2B  |  3B  |  OF  |  1B