Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Projecting the Full-Season Ball Rosters for 2012: Catching

In this series I'm going to take a quick look at the probable roster of each full season minor league affiliate at the beginning of the 2012 season. I'm going through it position by position. Keep in mind that these projections are very much subject to change (trades could happen, Rays could be more aggressive/conservative with some players, ...). We are going to do more in-depth pieces about the final roster for each affiliate when they are set. This is only to give you a short peek. For more information on the current state of the Rays Depth Chart, check out Doug's great work.

The position I'm going to look today is Catching.

Right now Jose Molina and one of Jose Lobation/Robinson Chirinos seem to handle the catching in St. Petersburg. I think that, barring any trade or acquisition, Lobaton will be Molina's back-up as he seems to be out of options and as he is more sound defensively than Chirinos.

Durham Bulls:

Robinson Chirinos (R), Nevin Ashley (R), Stephen Vogt (L)

The Bulls seem to have an above average catching due/trio once again in 2012. Robinson Chirinos has a bat that is major league ready but he has more work to do defensively. Nevin Ashley finally should be allowed to play a full season in Durham as his defense is excellent and his bat adequate (at least for AAA). Stephen Vogt's calling card is his bat while most people don't think he'll be able to play behind the dish in the majors. He'll spend time in the outfield (LF), at DH as well as occasionally behind the plate.

Montgomery Biscuits:

Mark Thomas (R), Craig Albernaz (R)
, David Wendt (R)

Mark Thomas seems to be having made great strides defensively as BA named him the best defensive catcher in the Rays system (ahead of good defensive catchers like Nevin Ashley and Jose Lobaton). His arm is excellent (48% CS) and his bat once was very well regarded. This is me hoping for him improving his hit-tool. The power is above average for a catcher anyway. With Jake Jefferies being traded to the Marlins (for Burke Badenhop ... and excellent trade by the way), the back-up catching job in Montgomery is up for grabs. Craig Albernaz in his role as an upper-level insurance catcher, David Wendt, Alejandro Torres, Mayobanex Acosta and Keith Castillo seem like options for this catching opening in Montgomery.

Charlotte Stone Crabs:

Lucas Bailey (R), Keith Castillo (S), Mayobanex Acosta (R)

Count me in as one of the last believers in Luke Bailey. But, if he doesn't show some promise in Port Charlotte even I have to give by. Together with 2 of Keith Castillo, Mayobanex Acosta and Kyle Holloway he'll form the Stone Crabs catching group.

Bowling Green Hot Rods:

Matt Rice (R), Alejandro Segovia (R), Kyle Holloway (R)

With highly coveted prospects Justin O'Conner and Jake DePew struggling heavily in rookie ball, I don't see them making the jump to full-season ball in 2012. Nevertheless, the catching group in Bowling Green is one to look out for. Matt Rice played very solid upon being drafted and adds leadership to the Hot Rods team. International prospects Alejandro Segovia and Gerardo Oliveras (UPDATE: Selected by the Red Sox in the AA portion of the Rule 5 Draft ... forgot about that, sorry!) are slated in behind Rice. Especially Segovia, who dominated in the Liga Paralela this off-season, is a very interesting prospect to follow. A possible third catching job could be filled by the catcher who doesn't get a job in Port Charlotte.


  1. Olivares is with Red Sox now

  2. Burgi, I had Bailey, Rice and Olivares as possible catchers for B.G.

  3. I disagree with your assessment of the catchers at the lower levels. The competition for the jobs in Bowling Green might be more unsettled than you think. Looking at the defensive and offensive stats for Rice, O'conner,Castillo, Acosta, and DePew it appears to be close. Rice had a solid offensive season but struggled somewhat defensively with 7 passed balls and throwing out 31% of runners. O'Conner had 8 passed balls while throwing out 36%, his offensive struggles are obvious. Castillo was a big plus offensively and on defense he had 0 errors and threw out 29%. Acosta had 4 passed balls with 35% thrown out and he had his worst offensive year as a Ray. DePew threw out 40% with 2 passed balls and offensively it appears he hit well in July after struggling early.

    Looking at all of the statistics both offensively and defensively, it looks like a closer race for the BG catching job. We'll see what happens!!!

  4. One thing this doesn't show is age. The Rays promote catchers very slowly. Look at Mark Thomas for example, who by most opinions is a good defensive catcher, possibly the best in the org:

    2007 - Princeton at 19
    2008 - Hudson Valley at 20
    2009 - Hudson Valley at 21
    2010 - Bowling Green at 22
    2011 - Charlotte at 23

    Now he's never been great with the bat, but not awful either. And it's not like the Rays expect a catcher to be Johnny Bench to earn a promotion, considering what they have used in the big leagues, even a bad bat with good defense would be an improvement. But anyway they have been very conservative with Thomas, and again his defense is pretty much unquestioned.

    That said, I don't see anyone other than who BurGi mentioned as good bets for Bowling Green. Rice had a successful college career and is going to be 23 in 2012. Segovia will be 22 and has shown some flashes, enough to platoon with Rice and see how he handles full-season ball anyway.

    DePew isn't happening, he'll only be 20 and really struggled with the bat at Princeton. He might get moved up to Hudson Valley.

    Acosta and Castillo could be in the mix, but I kind of assumed they (or at least one of them) would be in Charlotte. They are both already 24 so you would think high A at a minimum, unless they become 3rd catchers/bullpen catchers.

    Castillo had great offensive numbers for BG, but in less than 100 at-bats. He was an undrafted free agent too, so it might be a mix of small sample size and fluke. Not many 6'4" catchers either. Not sure what to make of him at this point to be honest.

    Mayobanex Acosta was #25 on BA's top 30 heading into 2009, not Mr. Ballew's finest moment. Defense seems ok, but the bat has good from mediocre to poor. I really don't seem him back at BG though, despite the late season demotion from Charlotte for the last month. I'd guess he's a backup in Charlotte again in 2012.

    Here's my question: Is Luke Bailey a lock to be promoted to Charlotte to start 2012?

    I've sort of assumed he would, but he'll only be 21, wouldn't hurt his development to let him have another chance at the Midwest League (at least offensively). He threw out 40% of basestealers, and if you followed the games, you'll remember that much of the 60% seemed to be Billy Hamilton of Dayton. Am I crazy to think the Rays might just let him repeat at BG to gain some more defensive experience while facing age-appropriate pitching in low A?

  5. Last year was a big jump for Bailey, the chances of him repeating at BG are very good. The next question is who takes over at Port Charlotte if he stays.

    Thomas most likely will move to Montgomery so High A may be the place for Bailey.

  6. I was thinking some sort of non-prospect combo of Torres/Acosta/Castillo for Charlotte if Bailey repeats BG. But how about this: Bailey at BG and Rice at Charlotte? Rice will be 23 and has lots of D1 experience, should be able to handle it as well as Bailey would at 21. Just a thought.

    If Bailey does repeat, it probably has to be one of those 2 choices though, a combo of older non-prospects or Rice. Don't see any other options.

    More I think about it, I kind of like Rice at Charlotte and Bailey at BG from a development standpoint. Challenges Rice and give Bailey a chance to gain confidence in his bat facing pitchers his own age.

  7. Lets see what happens after Spring Training.

  8. The combination at Charlotte is a real possibility, obviously the decision on Bailey will determine what happens. I'm not sure Rice is ready for skipping the Midwest League, that could be a bit of a leap!

    This is certainly an interesting position because spring training will certainly determine the lower level decisions for the organization.

    The higher level catchers are much easier to figure.

  9. @Diamondtom, Doug, Anon10:28: Thanks for your comments. I think Bailey will be moved up (as will Todd Glaesmann) as the Rays tend to being more aggressive with their tool guys (e.g.: Beckham). If he isn't promoted I see him pairing with Rice and Segovia in BG while Torres,Castillo and Acosta should be in Port Charlotte (as you said, Doug).

    @Anon 9:34PM: You don't necessarilly disagree with me in your post. DePew and O'Conner are not bad defensively but their bats need more time (and they are very young). They should stay in extended spring unless they've made a big jump during the offseason. Castillo should be solid in A+ as you mentioned. This leaves one opening in A+ (3rd catcher?) and 3 in BG and Holloway, Rice, Acosta and Segovia to fill those spots. I picked Acosta to A+ as he has played there before (while not very well) and I think it could be Rice (primary catcher because he has highest upside), Holloway (solid backup) and Segovia (also at DH, not sure if he can stay at C) for BG.

  10. Kyle Holloway has one of the best arms I have ever seen at the lower levels, He had a game at Hudson Valley that he threw out 5 of 7 with 2 balls dropped by the middle infielder. If you could just combine Rices bat and Holloway's skills. wow

  11. i think Wendt should definitely start ahead of Albernaz. Much better defensive player. (his bat is better, too)