Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Catchers, Part 1

Next up in my ongoing series on Astros minor league depth, let's look at the catchers in the organization. Today we'll see how the catchers who ended the season at Advanced A or higher did in 2013. Their 2013 stats are sorted from high to low by on-base percentage.

This is the first time in this series that I will include a player who has made his major league debut. Max Stassi was rushed to Houston from AA due to injuries in the system. As well as Stassi played in 2013, it is doubtful that he would have been called up last season if catcher injuries hadn't mounted up and forced the Astros to make the move prematurely.

I am also including some defensive stats in my comments since that is such a major factor in looking at catchers. [A note on caught stealing percentages for 2013: Due to a glitch on Baseball-Reference, this information for 2013 was not available. My thanks to Mike Fast of the Astros for helping me out with that information.]

Of this group of six, 18th round 2012 draft pick Ricky Gingras has the least experience at the upper levels. He only appeared in five games at Lancaster at the end of the season (four of those behind the dish) and he didn't get a hit in those five games. He actually only appeared in 21 games all season, 12 as catcher and DH in the rest. He hit .275/.383/.471 with a double, three home runs and 12 RBI in his first 16 games in Greeneville. Defensively, he caught 29% of runners attempting to steal (25% career), had a .990 fielding percentage, a 8.00 range factor and one passed ball.

Ryan McCurdy leads this list in terms of OBP with a healthy .410 mark. McCurdy played all 34 of his games in 2013 at catcher (24 in Lancaster and 10 in Corpus Christi). He has been used primarily as a back-up catcher and while backing up Tyler Heineman in Lancaster in May 2013, caught a combined no-hitter thrown by lefties Kyle Hallock and Luis Cruz. McCurdy caught 20% of would-be base stealers in 2013 (23% career), had a .979 fielding percentage, 8.38 range factor and one passed ball. McCurdy was signed by Houston as a non-drafted free agent in 2010.

2008 35th round draft pick Rene Garcia leads this list with the highest batting average, boosted by a .304/.348/.419 batting line in his first 73 games in Corpus Christi prior to his August 1st promotion to Oklahoma City. He caught in 77 of his 91 total games and sported a very impressive 51% caught stealing percentage at Corpus Christi (29% at Oklahoma City; 46% combined for the season; 36% career). For the 2013 season, Garcia had a .994 fielding percentage, 7.01 range factor and one passed ball.

Rene Garcia - May 2013
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Max Stassi, obtained from Oakland in a February 2013 trade, leads the way in slugging percentage with a robust .529 (minor league stats only). That mark was third in the Astros minors for all players with a minimum of 300 plate appearances. His 17 home runs were sixth in the minor league system. Stassi played 50 of his 76 games at catcher and boasted a 37% caught stealing rate (31% career), .983 fielding percentage, 7.02 range factor and two passed balls. Stassi played all of his 2013 minor league games at AA Corpus Christi.

Carlos Perez leads this group with a very impressive 48% caught stealing rate for 2013. His career mark is 36%, but the 48% for 2013 isn't a fluke since he caught 47% of runners in 2012. Like Garcia, Perez was promoted from AA Corpus Christi to AAA Oklahoma City during the 2013 season, but Perez' promotion came after only 16 games at AA. Catching 83 of his 91 games during the season, he had a .988 fielding percentage, 8.84 range factor and allowed 11 passed balls. Offensively, he had a solid season. Perez came to Houston via the July 2012 10-player trade with Toronto.

Carlos Perez - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Tyler Heineman, drafted in the eighth round in 2012, caught the most games of this group by far, catching in 101 of his 104 games. He ranks second out of the group in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. And he also excelled defensively at Advanced A Lancaster, with a 42% caught stealing rate (41% in his first year in 2012), a .991 fielding percentage, 8.48 range factor and eight passed balls.

Tyler Heineman - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Later this week, we will look at those catchers who ended their seasons at Low A Quad Cities or on one of the short season teams.

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