Today begins one of my favorite series each offseason. We will look at the farm system, position by position, to get an idea of how it stacks up for the future. Each Wednesday will see a new position review for the next eight weeks, leading right into the heart of spring training (C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, OF, SP, RP).

We will start at the bottom rung of the minors. In Arizona the Reds had three catchers get between 15 and 23 starts behind the plate. That group didn’t include the best prospect of the bunch, Jake Turnbull. The 18-year-old Australian was injured much of the season, getting just 40 plate appearances. Pabel Manzanero got the most starts behind the plate. The 20-year-old hit .303/.339/.403 and threw out 34% of opposing base runners. Derik Captillo and Ernesto Liberatore got 17 and 15 starts behind the plate. 21-year-old Capitillo hit .308/.367/.385 and threw out 29% of opposing base runners. 20-year-old Liberatore struggled at the plate, hitting .085/.122/.170 in 49 plate appearances while throwing out 24% of opposing runners.

Billings saw most of the action behind the plate go to Cassidy Brown and Mitch Trees, who combined to start 57 of the 75 games. Brown made 36 of those starts and played very well in his pro debut. The 12th rounder hit .322/.409/.383 and threw out 35% of opposing base runners. Mitch Trees struggled at the plate, hitting .194/.257/.355, but he threw out 36% of opposing base runners.

Chris Okey was the Reds 2nd round draft pick in 2016. He began in Billings, but only played in a handful of games there before joining Dayton. With the Dragons he hit .243/.323/.432 in 42 games. He was clearly worn down in the final month and a half of the year after playing nearly every day since his college season had begun. He showed off plenty of power and threw out 34% of opposing base runners between his two stops. 2015 1st rounder Tyler Stephenson also saw time in Dayton, but a concussion in April, then a wrist injury in May cost him almost the entire season. When he was healthy, before the wrist injury, he showed some off some skills rather briefly – but trying to play through the wrist injury a few times before being shut down led to overall offensive struggles. Stephenson hit .216/.278/.324 on the year, but never played three consecutive weeks during the season due to the injuries. He threw out 22% of opposing base runners.

Daytona found themselves on the lucky end, employing just two catchers all season long. Garrett Boulware and Chadwick Tromp split time evenly, both playing in 69 games. In the tough hitting league, Boulware hit .223/.292/.305 on the season with a 35% thrown out rate. He struggled to hit for power, but showed solid plate discipline. Tromp hit a .215/.249/.352 on the season, showing more power but had some plate discipline issues. He threw out 37% of opposing base runners.

In Pensacola a majority of the time was split between Joe Hudson and Chad Wallach. Hudson struggled at the plate, hitting just .203/.315/.290. He showed off good plate discipline, but didn’t show much power. Behind the plate he threw out 40% of opposing runners. Chad Wallach performed much better at the plate, hitting .240/.363/.410. Wallach showed off good pop and plate discipline at the plate. He threw out 33% of opposing base runners.

Louisville saw most of their action go to Chris Berset, but he is now a free agent. As are the other three guys who saw action behind the plate with the Bats.

The wild card is Rule 5 pick Stuart Turner. The Reds picked him up from the Minnesota Twins. He spent the year in Double-A with Chattanooga. He hit .239/.322/.363 in 97 games with the Lookouts. Behind the plate he threw out 40% of opposing base runners. He will need to stick to the 25-man roster all season if he’s going to remain in the organization.

Overall Thoughts

The Cincinnati Reds have two high end draft picks at the catcher position with Tyler Stephenson and Chris Okey. They are at different points on the developmental paths, but both represent plenty of upside. In terms of prospect depth, the guys who were in Double-A are both potential big leaguers, but for different reasons. Joe Hudson and Stuart Turner are both defense-first catchers who have big league tools behind the plate, but questions about just how the bat will play for both. For Chad Wallach, the bat seems like it could play at the position, but the question is can he be a big league defender back there? There were so intriguing guys in rookie ball that could provide organizational depth over the next few years and are worth keeping an eye on to see how they develop.

There is depth within the organization. There’s upside potential with multiple catchers. What’s keeping the overall grade from being higher is the lack of certainty with any one guy at this point. The higher upside players are all in the low minors. Those guys all have questions with them as well. It’s an improved position from last year, but there’s still room for growth at the toughest position on the field.

Grade: B

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About The Author

Doug Gray is the owner and operator of this website and has been running it since 2004 in one variation or another. You can follow him on twitter @dougdirt24, contact him via email here or follow the site on Facebook. and Youtube.

25 Responses

  1. Doug Gray

    Late posting of this today. I planned on finishing it last night, but wasn’t feeling well and went to bed early. Slept for 11 hours. Feeling better today, so far.

    Reply
  2. Wes

    Keep searching Dick! In my opinion its the most important position in the NL. If you can find a hitting catcher w good d that fits in middle of lineup than you don’t send up 2 duds in a row for 8 and 9 batter. So keep using high picks on catchers til we find our guy! Not sure if he’s in the system yet?!?

    Also, other teams are always looking to add catcher depth and will usually take a trade package revolving around a catcher as a main component. You can’t ever have too many catchers.

    Reply
  3. Arnold Ziffle

    A “B” grade is a little generous. A “C+” might be more fitting. Hopefully Okey can find the fast track for his development. It will be interesting to see how he does in Daytona. There isn’t really anyone holding him back above him, so his rise will be completely on his development. That is more why I give it a solid “C+” instead of a “B”, because of the lack of solid C talent at AA and AAA, and Tyler Stephenson’s injury. I followed Cassidy Brown some last year and I hope he can continue to hit in Dayton this year. Okey and Brown give the position some strength and they now need T. Stephenson to step up this year.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      I see two potential above average caliber catchers here, as well as several possible back up caliber guys. Then a wait and see with Jake Turnbull. At catcher, that’s a B. I think you are missing out on just how tough it is to find catching prospects.

      Reply
  4. MK

    This offseason the Reds have alluded to carrying three catchers on the 25-man roster. This seems like it will create a real short bench when you consider other than Mesoraco none of the candidates other than Mesoraco would be considered an offensive weapon for pinch hitting duty. With 12 pitchers , 3 catchers and 7 other starters, it only allows three other position players on the bench.

    Reply
    • RobL

      While Barnhardt doesn’t provide much pop, he is still a solid hitter against righties. I would not consider sending him to the plate as a negative.

      Reply
    • RFM

      At the moment they’d also be carrying versatile Peraza and Alcantara, who can play all around the field. If Richie Shaffer makes the team, he nominally plays 1b, 3b, RF, and LF.

      When you’re using pure pinch hitters who cares if they’re officially a catcher or outfielder?

      Reply
      • Doug Gray

        Well, if you’re only carrying two catchers, you aren’t using the other catcher as a pinch hitter 90% of the time.

  5. Greenfield Red

    I like the catchers from the DSL up for the most part. It’s a shame the Reds could have had another good catching prospect in the system (Luis Torrens) for almost nothing and chose not to.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      With a high probability that he’s be back out of the system when April began….

      Reply
      • Greenfield Red

        I know that’s possible, but why did San Diego want him so bad? They know they’re not going to win in 2017, so they plan to keep him or they wouldn’t have traded for him. If we believe the Reds will not be a playoff team in 2017, what can it hurt to keep him on the ML roster for the year. When you really need that 25th spot, the DL is always there.

      • Doug Gray

        San Diego thinks he’s got something, but it’s a stretch to say they plan on keeping him because they traded for him. They didn’t likely give up much to make that trade. If he’s simply over his head, and honestly, I’d expect him to be, it’s going to be very hard to carry him all year, even if they really want to.

      • Greenfield Red

        I see your point. At least SD is trying to do as much as they can about the talent gap. I think the Reds have done a lot, but they need to do more.

      • RFM

        In that Torrens trade the Reds got an interesting young utility player/prospect who doesn’t take a 40 man roster spot, and the Padres got someone they’re going to lose.

        I’m not sure why anyone thinks that’s a good move by the Padres. As usual the Padres are ‘doing stuff’… but as usual (during the Prellar tenure) the ‘stuff’ makes little sense, and again they’re selling something for nothing. Giving up two players so that in April (after Torrens is returned to the Yankees (?) they’ll end up with zero/neither.

      • Bill

        Padres also had lots of open spots on their 40-man roster; whereas the Red’s roster is full.

  6. Kap

    Easily the weakest position in our farm system. I hope Okey and Stephenson develop properly and quickly. I would target this position in any trade in the near future or in the draft. I really have my doubts about Meso…

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      Catchers tend to develop slowly.

      But this isn’t closer to the weakest position on the farm. Again, there are two guys, from the last two drafts, who were among the 50 best players available. Look at the farm system player rankings. What position has two top 15 guys? Outfield and catcher. That’s it. And there are three outfield spots. 1B has zero Top 25 guys. 2B has 1. SS has 1. 3B has 1.

      If you think this is easily the weakest position you must really, really think the farm system sucks.

      Reply
      • Kap

        In terms of close to contributing, yes it is. Those three positions have someone in the majors now at their positions or very close to it. But I guess I’m splitting hairs. There are worse positions

      • Doug Gray

        The value isn’t tied up to being close to contributing. It’s tied up in a whole bunch of things, but what I’m looking at is long term value, not short term value.

  7. Hoyce

    I’d like to see the thrown out % stat for catchers changed. Because 70% of that stat depends on the pitcher
    Replace it with a release time and an accuracy zone.
    I know it’s not anyone’s fault, but a very flawed stat

    Reply
  8. Bill

    Really nice write-up! I think your assessment is spot on. Solid years by Stephenson, Okey or Turnbull raise the grade next year.

    Reply

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