Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Getting to Know Astros/JetHawks C Garrett Stubbs

I first saw Garrett Stubbs in Quad Cities in August 2015, not even two months after he was drafted in the 8th round out of the University of Southern California and signed by the Astros, and he immediately stood out for both his small stature as a catcher (listed as 5'10" 175#) and for his work ethic. That those two things stood out is not a coincidence. Stubbs knows that he has to work twice as hard as some of his counterparts in order to set himself apart.

Garrett Stubbs - June 2016
Photo by Jayne Hansen

That work ethic has already paid off for Stubbs as he earned the Johnny Bench Award for top collegiate catcher in 2015. And that work ethic has definitely set him apart in the eyes of the 2016 Lancaster JetHawks coaching staff who universally praised Stubbs both at the plate and behind it.

JetHawks Manager Ramon Vazquez said of Stubbs, "The more you watch this guy play, the more you like him. The way he shuts down the running game, his blocking, his receiving." Vazquez also noted that Stubbs gets a lot of calls on pitches that may be low or out of the zone with his framing ability and was particularly complimentary of his ability to block a ball in the dirt and still manage to get the runner out at second.

JetHawks Hitting Coach Darryl Robinson weighed in on Stubbs strengths at the plate, "He works hard. He understands what he's trying to do. He has a plan every time he goes to the plate. And more times than not, he carries that plan out." Stubbs asks a lot of questions and works hard to understand what the opposing pitcher is trying to accomplish against him. But Robinson was also effusive in his praise of Stubbs behind the dish, "(He's) smart, very smart. He catches and throws and he's so good behind the plate. He's the best I've seen behind the plate."

Mike Burns, in his first season as the JetHawks Pitching Coach, loves the way that Stubbs and his teammate Jamie Ritchie handle his pitching staff. "Our pitchers ... are very fortunate with the two catchers they've got. They're both very smart." Of Stubbs in particular, Burns said, "I've never seen anybody get rid of the ball and throw the ball on the bag every time like he does."

Burns continued, "Stubbs is a little guy. He knows what he's got to do. He knows what he's capable of. I played with Brad Ausmus and he reminds me a lot of Brad Ausmus. He can catch. He can throw. He's smart. He's got a little chip on his shoulder. He knows he's got to work harder. He knows he's never going to be a prospect because he's so little, but he goes out there and competes and he's a guy I'll take on my team any day. I tell you what. If they threw him up in Houston right now, I don't think he'd have a problem. A lot of people question his bat, but I think he can swing it. I think he's got a good swing. He's not going to have a ton of (power), but he still has a little bit of pop. He's going to be very good for this organization and I think you'll see him up in Houston sooner than later."

High praise indeed. And Stubbs has something else in common with Brad Ausmus. In the offseason, Ausmus lives just around the corner from Stubbs in San Diego. But enough of all that, let's hear from Stubbs himself.

A lasting image that I have of Stubbs from my trip to Lancaster was following his walk-off single last Tuesday. As the dugout emptied and the mob approached him for a congratulatory pummeling and dousing, Stubbs turned to embrace the oncoming mob with open arms. And that is precisely what sets Stubbs apart. He embraces it all, challenges, opportunities and the occasional good-natured pummeling from teammates.

Thank you for your time, Garrett, and the best of luck as the season continues to unfold.

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