After looking at the pitching the previous two weeks, today I am moving to the other side of that battery, the catchers. We are going to be looking over the next two years at the position. While it may seem a bit similar to the State of the Farm series, the purpose here is to look at the current Reds and the contract status of the players at each position and get into potential internal replacements for when those current Reds contracts expire.
Expires after the 2014 season: No one
With both Devin Mesoraco and Brayan Pena locked up for the 2014 and 2015 season, it puts the Reds in a good position where they won’t have to make multiple replacements all at once. Of course, catching is a demanding position and it isn’t often that a team gets through a full season without calling someone up from the minor leagues to catch.
Potential catchers who could come during or after the 2014 season: Tucker Barnhart
The Reds have trotted out plenty of veteran catchers at the Triple-A level since Devin Mesoraco was promoted to the Major Leagues to start the 2012 season, but the 2014 season will see something different as Tucker Barnhart will be behind the plate for the Bats a majority of the time. Barnhart has been added to the 40-man roster this offseason and with his advanced defense and solid bat, he is very likely to be the option called upon should the big league club need to fill the position during or after the 2014 season. Given that Barnhart is the only option listed, there is no most likely option or wild card pick here.
Expires after the 2015 season: Brayan Pena
While it is very likely that Tucker Barnhart will assume the role left by Pena, things could change and leave open some competition.
Potential catchers who could come during or after the 2015 season: Chris Berset, Yovan Gonzalez, Joe Hudson
The top bet here is probably Chris Berset. Berset finished the season in Double-A Pensacola in 2013, higher than the other two. Defensively he shows some skills and he has shown good plate discipline throughout his career. He has never hit over .244 in a single season though. The bat is usually the last to develop with catchers, but he will be 26-years-old next season so time is running short for him to step forward from the crowd. Yovan Gonzalez finished his season in Advanced-A Bakersfield (he spent three games in Louisville as an injury fill in) in 2013. He hit .262/.330/.313 and threw out 32% of base runners on the season. Despite playing in the hitter friendly California League, he showed no power to speak of. He carries a light bat, but has shown the defensive abilities that he could wind up in a backup role of sorts if things go right. Joe Hudson spent his first professional season with the Dayton Dragons in Low-A. After a slow start in the first half he rebounded some, hitting .247/.328/.332 with good plate discipline. He is further away than the other two guys, but could push them for playing time by 2015 as he moves up the ladder if he can show some of the promise in his bat and improve his defense some.
Most likely to take over in 2016: Chris Berset
It really is a toss up here between the three guys as they all have their positives and negatives with them right now, so I took the easy way out and picked the player who is the closest to the Majors right now.
Wild card pick: Joe Hudson
Hudson has the biggest upside of the three players, but he is also the lowest player on the totem pole right now with no experience higher than Dayton. He showed flashes of a solid bat during the season and like the others he has good tools behind the plate to work with. It will just be a matter of him putting them together quick enough to make it high enough to be ready by then.
For more from this series, click here.