2018 Cincinnati Reds State of the Farm: Catcher Doug Gray January 9, 2018 53 Comments The Cincinnati Reds seem to have their catcher for the next few years at the big league level. After the season they extended Tucker Barnhart through the 2021 season. They also have an option for the 2022 season if they want. Devin Mesoraco will act as the back up in 2018. Behind him will be Stuart Turner, likely in Triple-A Louisville. Mesoraco is a free agent following the 2018 season. Turner will remain under team control for at least five more seasons if he remains inside the organization. None of those three players are prospects. When we look at those players that are prospects and technically a part of the farm system, we start with the catchers who were in Double-A last season. In Pensacola, Joe Hudson got the most playing time. Defensively, he’s the best catcher the organization has in the farm system and it’s not particularly close. That’s not a knock on the rest of the system, but praise for what Hudson brings to the table. He’s got a plus arm that shows strength and accuracy. He’s thrown out 45% of attempted base stealers for his career. His ability to call a game and lead a pitching staff is well regarded, too. Where Hudson has struggled is at the plate. In two seasons at the Double-A level he’s OPS’d just .563. Chad Tromp, like Hudson, only played in about half of the games in 2017. He split his time between Daytona and Pensacola. In Daytona his bat played well, hitting .311/.351/.412. The jump to Pensacola didn’t go as well. While he walked nearly as often as he struck out in 36 games, he only hit .204/.302/.239. Tromp is just 22-years-old, so there’s plenty of time for his bat to rebound and he’s hit better at times in the past than he showed in Double-A. Behind the plate he threw out 28% of opposing base runners. He’s a solid defender with room to get better. In Daytona it was Chris Okey who saw most of the action. The 2nd round pick from 2016 has a season that was about as opposite as possibly could be expected. Coming out of the draft, Okey was far more known for his bat than for his defense. His defense was solid, but was not the strength of his game. That script flipped for 2017. He hit just .185/.265/.249 for Daytona in 93 games played. Power, a calling card out of college, disappeared for the catcher. Behind the plate, though, he took big strides forward. He threw out 33% of opposing base runners and improved his receiving and game calling abilities. Garrett Boulware played in 52 games in Daytona, but only 33 behind the plate as he shared time with both Okey and Tromp. At the plate he hit .269/.306/.341, which was a little bit below-average for the league. Behind the plate he struggled – throwing out just 17% of opposing base stealers. He played another six games between Pensacola and Louisville. It was a rebound season for Tyler Stephenson. The organizations top prospect at the position was coming off of a season in which he suffered a wrist injury that held him to just 44 games played and led to struggles at the plate. In 2017 he found success at the dish, hitting .278/.374/.414 with 44 walks and 58 strikeouts in 80 games. He also began to flash more of his offensive potential that could lead to future All-Star production if he fully develops. Unfortunately for Stephenson, he only played in 80 games because his season was cut short by injury for a second consecutive season. A thumb injury would take out most of his second half, though he returned to participate in instructional league. Behind the plate, compared to 2016, the 20-year-old looks better in all aspects of his defense. He threw out just 21% of opposing base stealers during the season. There’s still work to do on the defensive side, but he took steps forward in 2017 and all of the pieces are there for further improvements. In Billings there was a larger contingent of catchers splitting the playing time. 7th round pick in 2017 Mark Kolozsvary hit well for the Mustangs. He posted a .305/.362/.411 line in 28 games. Most of those games came behind the plate. In 24 games back there he threw out 33% of opposing runners. Coming out of college he was more known for his defensive abilities than his bat. Hendrik Clementina didn’t begin the season with the Reds organization. He joined the organization in the Tony Cingrani trade at the end of July. Before coming to Billings, he played with the Ogden Raptors. At the plate he was hitting .370/.439/.554 in 24 games played. In the 27 games after joining Billings his hitting took a big step backwards, posting a .240/.302/.365 line with the Mustangs. Overall on the year he hit .303 with 11 doubles and six homers in 51 games. Behind the plate he threw out 27% of opposing base stealers. But, his defense will need to continue to improve as he’s considered to be below-average at this stage of his career. He’s just 20-years-old, though, so he’s got plenty of time to improve. Back in Goodyear with the AZL Reds, there were three guys who split time evenly behind the plate. 17-year-old Victor Ruiz, signed out of Mexico in October of 2016, started out well with the Reds. He would slow down at the plate, but posted a .244/.250/.321 line as a hitter in 80 plate appearances as one of the youngest players in the league. Behind the plate he threw out 19% of opposing runners, but did allow nine passed balls in 22 games. He’s incredibly young, but he’s got the raw tools to remain at the position – he will just need to continue to develop like every other 17-year-old catcher that’s ever existed. Valentin Martinez showed the best offensive production among the three Arizona League catchers. The 20-year-old hit .292/.358/.444 in 81 plate appearances. His .802 OPS was the best of his four seasons since signing. Behind the plate he threw out 33% of opposing base runners, but also allowed five passed balls in 21 games played. Ernesto Liberatore has hit best offensive season of his career with the AZL Reds in 2017. He hit .238/.342/.317 in 73 plate appearances. The 21-year-old performed better behind the plate. He threw out 40% of opposing base runners and only had two passed balls in 18 games played. Overview Only one catcher in the organization was ranked inside The Top 25 Cincinnati Reds Prospects, Tyler Stephenson. At the top of the food chain, things are a bit slim. Double and Triple-A both relied on veteran free agents for parts of their catching duties. Combined with losing them to free agency, and losing Chad Wallach on waivers, Joe Hudson is the lone guy remaining who has more than half-of-a-season above A-ball. There are some interesting options in the lower minors that are raw, but talented. And if Chris Okey can couple his past offensive profile with the stronger defense he could provide a big boost to the position. Grade There’s some depth, but with only one top 25 prospect and being thin at the top it’s tough to give this position more than a C at this point. Top Tools Hit Tool | Tyler Stephenson Power | Tyler Stephenson Running | Uh…. they are catchers. Let’s just call them all a bit slow. Sorry guys. Arm Strength | Joe Hudson Defense | Joe Hudson For more articles in the State of the Farm series, you can click here. They will be released each Tuesday moving forward. 53 Responses Tom January 9, 2018 So what, if anything, is going on with Mesoraco? Is he done? Is he Barnhardt’s backup now? I haven’t heard anything about him in a long time. greg January 9, 2018 4th sentence in the post. Tom January 9, 2018 I read that. I just haven’t heard anything about his health status in a while. Is he going to to be ready for spring training? That’s what I was curious about. Bill January 9, 2018 Here’s a story by Mark Sheldon that was published late last month: https://www.mlb.com/news/reds-devin-mesoraco-enters-2018-in-new-role/c-263814790 Kap January 9, 2018 Yikes…. doesn’t inspire much hope. Hopefully okey can gain positive momentum this year. Going to keep an eye on kolozavary. Good defense and hopefully a solid bat even though it was billings. Will be interesting to see how he does this year in Dayton Brock January 9, 2018 To be fair, few farm systems contain both depth and talent at the catcher position. Probably the hardest position to develop in the game. I’d venture to say a lot of teams have one Tyler Stephenson somewhere in their farm system with potential to be a solid to very good major league catcher, but few if any teams have more than that. Doug Gray January 9, 2018 This is pretty accurate. Catching prospects are tough to find. Billy January 9, 2018 Doug, I’m curious how you collect information from your contacts in preparation for your prospect list. Do you have to walk through everyone on the team and get the contact’s impression? Or do you already have players that you want to ask about? Or do you just let them do all the talking and learn whatever they tell you? Just curious… Doug Gray January 9, 2018 Most of the information I get is first hand. I travel a lot throughout the season to watch these guys. When I’m not at the stadium, I’m watching games on MiLB.tv (usually 2-3 at a time) and listening to games (Daytona/Billings since they don’t have the TV packages for most of the teams within their leagues). When I’ve seen a guy, I try and rely on what I saw. But, I am talking with scouts at almost every game I’m at about the players. I speak with Reds officials about some of the guys, during and after the season. About three weeks before I release my list, I start going through the entire farm system and find the guys I need more information on. That’s why I start reaching out to contacts and make calls and emails. It’s almost always guys from rookie ball who either I hadn’t seen since spring training, or guys drafted in the past season. Phone calls generally are me asking questions about the player – the kinds of tools they have, make up, future projections – stuff like that. This past year, for example, that list was 25 players deep. It included guys that played in the DSL/AZL/Billings, and then a few guys that were injured last year that I was looking for updates on. Steve January 9, 2018 With the off-season signing of Cruz, looks like he will be sharing duties with Turner in Louisville. Hudson and Tromp look like they’ll be having another year in Pensacola. Not sure where Boulware starts the season. Okey and Stephenson in Daytona is my guess. Brown and Lofstrom, who played in Dayton were omitted in the article. I’m guessing that they will be in a battle with Kolozsvary and Clementina for the spots there. I think Dayton might keep 3, Brown, Kolozsvary and Clementina. Manzanero and Lofstrom in Billings. Martinez and Liberatore in Greeneville. Some players in the DSL should be coming stateside to help fill spots in the AZL. Also, Turnbull not mentioned with this group, so his transition to playing 1B looks permanent. Michael B. Green January 9, 2018 There is no evidence that he’ll ever hit but Hudson could end up as the backup to Barnhart. Turner is right there too. Early 2018 will likely show Mesoraco as the immediate backup and perhaps he’ll serve as the backup 1B to Votto too. Sadly, his time with the Reds will come to an end at the end of 2018 if not before then. There is always a chance he hits the DL60 at some point but I am sure CIN wants to help him establish some value for free agency in 2019. What I like about Turner and Hudson are the way they handle pitchers. They have led teams to league championships. No apparent leadership metrics are out there but if you look at championships in the leagues that these guys played in – especially Turner – they were either in the championship or won it practically every year. Honestly, with Barnhart just signing his extension, I don’t think CIN needs to worry too much about the position. The timing of Stephenson making it to the bigs coincides with Barnhart’s maturity of his contract. CIN can revisit the issue then but Stephenson has a lot of work to do before that is even a conversation. Until then, CIN has a Gold Glove switch-hitting catcher and some defensive stalwarts on the farm behind him. I’ll take that. Advantage Cinci. Stock January 9, 2018 Great insight Michael. Fantastic post. I really like your insights about Hudson. Look how much better Lopez and Reyes were when they went from a pitchers paradise in A+ ball to AA and reduced his ERA (in part thanks to a great BABIP). Look how well Mahle pitched. Deck McGwire’s ERA went from 5.10 to 2.79. I also agree that between Barnhart’s current contract and Stevenson the Reds are set at the catcher position until 2027 or so. And most of these years with a very good contract. Hard to get excited about the catchers in Montana. Clementia was great with the Dodgers when his BABIP was .405. Not so good with the Reds when his BABIP was .300. Kolozsvary’s .431 BABIP has only one direction to go. .300 BA for a catcher is pretty good but I would expect both averages to dip below .250 in Dayton. This total lack of depth makes the signing of Barnhardt even more impressive. MK January 9, 2018 Scott Moss told me last year after the draft that his former Florida teammate Kolozsvary is the real deal and was excited to have him in organization. sultanofswaff January 9, 2018 If Mez can regain just a little of the offensive form he displayed before getting injured the Reds will have one of the best catching tandems in baseball. The lack of quality depth in the minors sure makes TStephenson a near untouchable in my mind. Who else is dying for the Reds to do something, ANYTHING, this offseason???? I’m wearing out mlbtraderumors in the hope that one day I’ll see evidence the front office has emerged from hibernation. wes January 9, 2018 If I believed the front office wasn’t doing anything I couldn’t route for the Reds any longer. I got to believe they are in on some things. And if that’s true- then it not being leaked to media is a good thing. I just don’t want them to make a bad move more than anything. Patience is the best course but if Miami gives Yelich away like last 2 guys or Lance Lynn is available at 3 years 17 million per season- really expecting Reds to be right there after bargains like that. On that same note. MLB.com’s reporting and coverage of the off-season is atrocious. They only cover major markets and repeat the same stories over and over. They should hire Doug for some diversity in articles and some new flavor commentators. Doug Gray January 9, 2018 I think that just about every team has fans thinking the same thing. No one is doing anything except the Marlins – and their fans probably wish their team hadn’t. MK January 9, 2018 The Rays fans as well. Gilbert Keith Chesterton January 9, 2018 So their grade is “C”, for catcher, right? doofus January 9, 2018 Joe Hudson caught Tyler Mahle’s no hitters. wes January 9, 2018 In general, I think the Reds draft above average to good compared to other teams. That being said, they surely emphasis catching and that certainly has not gone to plan. I guess though, it may be the most difficult position to project with guys like Barnhart coming out of no where and, from what I see, the majority of catchers who make it into the top 25/50 rankings actually flounder in big leagues…that being said, the brightest spot of last season can arguably be Barnhart. he hit solid and caught outstanding! And with his salary he’s a true asset! Alex January 9, 2018 Is Tyler Stephenson going to be a good enough defensive catcher to stay behind the plate? I know he hasn’t been like terrible but he isn’t exactly good either right?? And I’m sure it only gets harder for catchers as they advance. Only thing I’m kinda worries about with him. Doug Gray January 9, 2018 I’d be lying if some people weren’t concerned he’s too tall to catch. But, I think he’s got what it takes to stick back there, particularly if he hits. As with every position, the better the bat, the more you’re willing to give back on the other side. Even at a spot as important as catcher. There’s clearly still work to be done defensively – though short of your all-timers, that can be said for every catcher at age 20. Piggly Wiggly January 9, 2018 The Reds spent their first round pick in 2015, #11 overall, on Tyler Stephenson. They then selected Chris Okey with their second round pick in 2016. Not much to show for those two highly picked players. Stephenson, unfortunately, cannot stay off of the DL. He will more than likely be moved to 1B in a couple of years. Okey cannot hit well, the thing he was drafted for. The scout in the Reds scouting department responsible for evaluating C’s should be fired. This is not a position the Reds have drafted well at all since drafting Barnhart several years ago. Right straight up the middle of the field is where the Reds have been weak in drafting: SS, C, CF. The C’s spot and its weakness within the organization is very evident. 1B is weak in the system. SS is weak in the system. OBP is weak in the system, but getting a little better. Power hitting is weak in the system. All the while the Reds front office floods the minor league system with RHP’s. Can’t have enough pitching (sarcasm). The Reds scouting and drafting leave a lot to be desired. Buckley is very overrated. Not a fan of Buckley’s drafting. The 2017 draft was a big disappointment following the good one in 2016. MK January 9, 2018 Mesoraco struggled in the lower minors; below average offensively and poor defensively, Although injuries have short circuited him he eventually turned out OK when healthy. Catching is so demanding from a learning standpoint I think we have to give guys especially below AA a little break. If I have noticed anything over the years it seems the guys who were high school guys rather than college seem to have more success and easier all around transition to the pros. Doug Gray January 9, 2018 No team drafts catching well. It’s EASILY the toughest position to draft. Why? Because catching is easily the toughest position to play. Physically. Mentally. It takes a toll on your body. There’s more to deal with, more to learn, more to relay to the rest of the team. Calling for someone’s job because of this is silly. I’m not going to dive further into it, but yeah, this is silly. The Duke January 9, 2018 I’d like to see us take a high upside prep catcher in the upcoming draft. Not in the first couple rounds, but somewhere in that rd 3-6 range where we can offer enough for them to pass on college, but talented enough to have MLB starter upside. Shamrock January 9, 2018 I wish we had taken a flyer on Max Pentecost (at least in the 2nd round of the Rule V Draft) I know it’s a terrible thing to have to say about a catcher…..but if that shoulder of his ever heals properly, Watch Out!! IndyRedsFan January 9, 2018 The fact that none of the 30 teams took a flyer on him in the Rule 5 should tell you all you need to know about him. Stock January 9, 2018 Agreed. I am with you. If it doesn’t you waste 100k. If it does you have the second coming of Mike Piazza. Doug Gray January 9, 2018 Mike Piazza? Come on now. Stock January 9, 2018 lol That is a bit exteme. I know. He was just the first catcher I thought of known for poor defense. How about Darren Daulton Michael B. Green January 9, 2018 C Barnhart Mesoraco Turner Hudson = set 1B Votto Peterson LaValley = set 2B Gennett Herrera Senzel Long = set SS Peraza = We’ll know this year 3B Suarez Senzel = set LF Duvall Winker Ervin Friedl Trammell = set CF Hamilton Schebler Ervin Guerrero Friedl Siri Trammell = set (but could change) RF Schebler Winker Guerrero Aquino Siri = set (but could use true RF depth) Winker’s time is now. We’ll see Senzel and Long this year. If Aquino adjusts, we’ll see him too. The real watch is on Friedl, Siri and Trammell. Lot’s of OF depth here and I still think Trammell is going to quickly become a top-top prospect. Stock January 9, 2018 I agree in that I think Trammell will be a top 25 overall prospect next winter. I think Long makes it to the show only if an injury occurs. He is behind Suarez, Gennett, Senzel and possibly Herrera in the pecking order at 2B/3B. If the Reds really want to win they should trade Duvall, Hamilton and Gennett to the Dodgers. They should be willing to eat Kemp’s contract and bring in several prospects. Verdugo solves CF. Yadier Alverez and Mitchell White provide more competition at SP and Keibert Ruiz becomes our number 1 catcher prospect. So Reds obtain: Kemp, Verdugo, Alverez, White and Ruiz Dodgers obtain: Duvall, Hamilton, Gennett Dodgers have a great platoon at 2B. Hamilton is a fantastic 4th OF. Duvall is better than Kemp/Pederson in LF. Verdugo is blocked as is Ruiz. The Dodger have plenty of pitching and now have room to grab some FA from the 2018 class Machado/Harper/Kershaw. MK January 9, 2018 Kemp owed $43 million over next two years. That aint going to happen unless Dodger pay 2/3 Wes January 9, 2018 So two top 50 prospects and 2 more top 10 in one of best systems for Duvall Hamilton and scooter? Dodgers could literally get any player available with that package- Like archer and cologne. Also dodgers have no payroll restrictions- not a likely scenario. Stock January 9, 2018 No team in baseball has restrictions but based upon the fact that the Dodgers did not pursue Stanton tells me they are thinking about payroll. They would love to get rid of Kemp. Based upon the Stanton deal Kemp and Verdugo for a bag of peanuts is something the Dodgers would jump at in an instant. My thought was Kemp, Verdugo and Alvarez balance out. Gennett and Duvall get you Ruiz and Hamilton is worth more than White. If this is too much drop Alvarez or White. This may even improve the Reds in 2019 and 2019 but it without a doubt helps them in 2020+ Doug Gray January 9, 2018 The Dodgers and Yankees (and a few others) are absolutely thinking about payroll. They *must* stay under the luxury tax threshold. It will save them tens of millions of dollars each year moving forward if they are lucky enough to land Machado/Harper/Kershaw (assuming he opts out – and I’d imagine he will). By staying under in 2018, it means that in 2019 they only pay 20% instead of 50% in penalty. Wes January 9, 2018 Kershaw plays for the dodgers and if he opts out that’s 35 mill they’ll save. They are only at 157 mill right now. So they got room for Kershaw and another guy and still be under 200 mill. You got a source/article where they are begging to deal kemp? I don’t believe the dodgers are in a bind at all and don’t care about his salary. That being said- I think reds could handle the additional payroll Stock January 9, 2018 Wes, Per Cots Baseball contracts the Dodgers are at $241 million. And if money is not a concern why isn’t Stanton a Dodger. I think it is safe to say he is an upgrade over Pederson in LF. William Kubas January 9, 2018 Michael B. Green January 9, 2018 “2B Gennett Herrera Senzel Long = set SS Peraza = We’ll know this year 3B Suarez Senzel = set” You list does not include former Stanford Cardinal, Alex Blandino GO STANFORD CARDINAL BASEBALL Michael B. Green January 9, 2018 Good point. Set for sure. MK January 9, 2018 Maybe I am having a senior moment but I do not remember a 1B Peterson. Hoyce January 9, 2018 Reds sign Vance Worley …..ugggggggggg Charley Waffles January 9, 2018 Stop the presses!!! Not, THE Vance Worley? Not the one with a 6.91 ERA for Miami Marlins in 2017? Reds are handing out minor league contracts like Arthur Carlson handing out turkeys at a Thanksgiving parade. Colorado Red January 9, 2018 Mid 3’s the year before. This is a MINOR LEAGUE contract. No risk. If he does well in ST, invite him up. If not let him pitch at AAA. Again, very little risk. Charley Waffles January 9, 2018 But it is another former Cardinal signed way, way past their prime. Why can’t the Reds break this habit? It is maddening. Michael B. Green January 9, 2018 Former SEA prospect. DJ. Bill January 10, 2018 Mr. Waffles, when did Worley pitch for the Cardinals. Colorado Red January 9, 2018 as an aside, Reds sign Vance Worley to a minor league deal, with a ST invite. Looks like another flyer with little no risk. Jonathan January 9, 2018 Where did Jake Turnbull end up? I think its too early to give up on Tyler Stephenson as he’s only 20. Doug Gray January 9, 2018 First base. Jonathan Linn January 10, 2018 Will he show up on that list or is his status really low right now? Doug Gray January 10, 2018 He will be mentioned, but it will only be briefly because he struggled in 2017. His age buys him some time, for sure, though.