Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Astros Minor League Depth - Catchers, Part 2

In my ongoing series on Astros minor league depth, earlier this week we looked at those catchers in the system who ended their seasons at Advanced A or higher. Today we review those catchers who ended their seasons at Low A Quad Cities or on one of the short season teams. The players are ranked high to low in terms of their 2013 on-base percentage. As I did with the first part of the series, I am also including some defensive statistics.

The highest on-base percentage of these catchers belongs to ninth round 2013 draft pick Brian Holberton. Holberton was behind the dish in 25 of his 37 games for Greeneville. He also leads this group in slugging percentage. Holberton caught 29% of would-be base stealers, had a .991 fielding percentage, a 8.84 range factor and allowed six passed balls.

Holberton shared the catching duties in Greeneville with Alfredo Gonzalez. Gonzalez signed with Houston as an international free agent all the way back in 2008, but he is still only 21. He caught in 30 of his 33 games, sporting a healthy 42% caught stealing rate (30% career), a .989 fielding percentage, 8.87 range factor and allowed six passed balls. He was solid at the plate.

Barely trailing Holberton in on-base percentage, 34th round 2013 draft pick Brett Booth split his season between the Gulf Coast League team (16 games) and Tri-City (26 games). He did not hit quite as well at Tri-City as he had with the GCL, but still held his own. He caught in 26 of his 42 games and excelled defensively with a 44% caught stealing percentage, a .992 fielding percentage, a 10.15 range factor and only two passed balls.

The primary catchers at Tri-City for the season were Jake Rodriguez (30 of 32 games at catcher) and Ernesto Genoves who was released a few days ago. Both players struggled at the plate. Rodriquez was drafted in the 19th round in 2013. He had a 47% caught stealing rate, .986 fielding percentage, 7.20 range factor and allowed two passed balls.

Jake Rodriguez - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

The DSL featured an interesting pair of catchers. Marlon Avea, 20, signed as free agent out of Nicaragua has spent the last three seasons with the DSL. He caught in 50 of his 52 games and stopped 49% of base stealers (44% career), had a .985 fielding percentage, 7.78 range factor and allowed 10 passed balls. Avea hit extremely well in 39 games this past winter with the Liga Paralela in Venezuela, putting up a .333/.402/.479 batting line. Brian Pena, who will be 20 in June, was signed out of the Dominican Republic prior to the 2012 season. He started off hot at the plate, but cooled off as the season progressed. Pena had a 44% caught stealing rate in 2013 (35% in 2012), a .977 fielding percentage, 8.72 range factor and allowed five passed balls. He caught in 29 of his 31 games.

Marlon Avea - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen

Jacob Nottingham, the Astros 2013 sixth round draft pick, was behind the plate in 30 of his 44 games with the GCL team. Defensively, he caught 25% of would-be base stealers, had a 1.000 fielding percentage, an 8.60 range factor and allowed 12 passed balls. Offensively, he started to really heat up at the end of the season, hitting .306/.350/.472 over his final 10 games. With two triples and four stolen bases to his name, he is hardly your prototypical catcher.

Nottingham shared catching duties at the GCL with Booth (as noted above), Brett Clements (caught in 15 of his 20 games), and Pedro Coa (caught in 18 of his 26 games). Clements was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Nova Southeastern in 2013. He caught 2 of 9 base runners (22%), had a .989 fielding percentage, 6.00 range factor and allowed five passed balls. Pedro Coa signed with the Astros out of Venezuela prior to the 2011 season. Although Coa struggled at the plate in his first season stateside, he showed some promise offensively in his final season with the Dominican Summer League. Coa only caught 23% of runners in 2013, down substantially from prior seasons (41% career). He had a .975 fielding percentage, 6.40 range factor and allowed 13 passed balls.

Jobduan Morales came into the Houston organization in the May 2012 Justin Ruggiano trade with the Marlins. He caught in 52 games out of his 66 total for Quad Cities. Morales had a 29% caught stealing rate (26% career), .990 fielding percentage, 7.87 range factor and allowed two passed balls.

Morales shared catching duties at Quad Cities with Roberto Pena. Pena has been named by Baseball America as the best defensive catcher in the organization for a couple of years in a row and with good reason. Pena played 84 of his 86 games at the catcher position. In the process, he caught 52% of potential base stealers (41% career), had a .993 fielding percentage, a 8.79 range factor and allowed six passed balls. There is zero question in my mind as to whether or not Pena has what it takes to make it to the big leagues. The only question is whether he will hit well enough to avoid becoming a back-up backstop.

Roberto Pena - Spring Training 2014
Photo by Jayne Hansen


  1. Nottingham looks interesting. Wonder if he makes it to Greeneville this year. 1oldpro

    1. Likely either Greeneville or Tri-City. He doesn't even turn 19 until next week! He looks older and more polished than that, though, from the little I saw of him in Spring Training.

  2. Roberto pena. Best defensive catcher since he became a pro(4 years) so i bet the astros r just wainting to see if his bat comes around. He might just need to hit as low as 270 and he will be in the bigs. Even GM said he is the best of all.