Thursday, February 7, 2013

Astros Minor League Depth - Catcher

As Spring Training approaches, I've been looking at the Astros minor league depth, position by position.  Today, we look at the catchers in the organization who had the best seasons in 2012.

Carlos Perez and Roberto Pena
Lancaster - August 2012
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The embedded chart shows catchers in the organization ranked from high to low in terms of OBP. I have noted their current age and the last level at which they played.



One thing strikes me immediately when looking at this list -- youth. Except for Ben Heath and Chris Wallace who are each 24 years old, the rest of these players range from 20 to 22.

Tyler Heineman leads the list in his first year with the organization. The 2012 eighth round draft pick also leads this list in batting average and OPS. He was the New York-Penn League batting champion for 2012 as well. But Heineman isn't just a good hitter. He's also a great defensive catcher and had one of the top caught stealing percentages in the Astros minor league system at 41%. M. P. Cokinos would certainly have gotten much more attention for his offensive output had he not been playing alongside Heineman.

Another catcher who has everyone excited since he came into the system as a part of the 10-player Houston-Toronto trade in July is Carlos Perez. Much like Heineman, he looks to be the complete package offensively and defensively and boasted a 47% caught stealing rate at Lancaster (34% overall).

Also relatively new to the organization is Jobduan Morales who came to the Astros organization in the Justin Ruggiano trade with Miami. Morales' bat was valuable enough that he frequently appeared as a DH when he wasn't used behind the dish. That was true of his winter season in Puerto Rico as well.

Max Stassi just came in to the Astros organization this week as a part of the Jed Lowrie/Fernando Rodriguez trade with Oakland. He ranks in the middle of the pack with his on-base skills. It is his power potential that sets him apart from the rest of the group as he hit 18 doubles and 15 home runs on the way to a .468 slugging percentage. In 2012, he had a 24% caught stealing rate.

There are a couple players on this list whose playing time was very limited and many might question their inclusion. Luis Alvarez didn't see a great deal of playing time during the season, but put up some very good numbers. He followed up with an outstanding winter season with the Liga Paralela in Venezuela. That is enough to keep me interested in Alvarez. Pedro Coa was one of the few offensive bright spots on the DSL team in 2012. That, coupled with a 60% caught stealing rate, has me looking forward to seeing what he will do in 2013.

Heath and Rene Garcia were both having good years when injuries shortened their seasons. Roberto Pena was promoted to Lancaster largely due to injuries putting a strain on the catching staff throughout the system. Pena is widely regarded as a premium defensive catcher, but he struggled offensively after the promotion. I think the 20-year old will start to catch up with the more advanced pitching in the coming season if he is given regular playing time.

Chris Wallace had an uneven season offensively, but overall hit extremely well in the second half of the season. What he needs to focus on most, though, are base runners. He only managed a 12% caught stealing rate in 2012.

Ernesto Genoves' offensive output fell off from the prior season, but reports (from Appy Astros) are that he became much more solid defensively. I'm still intrigued by Genoves' potential, but he is going to have to show me that he is capable of getting to the next level developmentally in the coming season.

Tuesday: Lefty Starters
Wednesday: Lefty Relievers

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