MLB: The AZ Diamondbacks Catching Situation
The AZ Diamondbacks’ front office and their scouts have been working to rebuild their minor league system. What was once considered to be a top five system for talent, just a few years ago, was dwindling down due to bad moves and trades? But, in a relatively short time span the team has been able to replenish its minor league system with pitching and position players. However the one area that continues to be an issue is the catcher’s spot.
In baseball the catcher’s position is possibly the most vital position on the team. They determine what pitches the pitcher will throw and to do that, they need to know what the pitchers are capable of throwing effectively during any part of the game. At the same time they need to be aware of what the batters are capable of hitting. Catchers have such a wide range of responsibilities, the position requires intelligence, skill, baseball sense, and the most importantly, leadership.
With injuries to Tuffy Gosewisch, Gerald Laird and Oscar Hernandez it quickly became apparent how desperate the Diamondbacks are for talent at the catcher’s position. After Miguel Montero was traded in December of 2014, Gosewisch was the lone holdover at catcher from last season. The Diamondbacks invited seven catchers to Spring Training (Oscar Hernandez, Pete O’Brien, Gerald Larid, Jordan Pacheco, Matt Pagnozzi, Blake Lalli and Mark Thomas).
Gosewisch, who was the regular starter, but not much of a hitter, was well liked by the pitching staff for his calling of a game. However, Gosewisch jammed his knee on a play at first base and an MRI revealed a tear. He needed surgery to repair the damage to the ligament and will be out until after the start of Spring Training 2016.
Laird who won the backup job had appeared in just one game this season before a back injury sidelined him. He ended up undergoing back surgery and was placed on the 60-day DL. It is unclear how long he will be out of action after the surgery. He might not be back this year or even be invited back to the Diamondbacks next season.
The Diamondbacks signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a veteran who was let go by the Miami Marlins in May, and they were hoping that he would be the everyday catcher for the rest of the year, but he has struggled with his hitting.
Jordan Pacheco, who played multiple positions for the team, was not really seen as a backup catcher and accepted his assignment to AAA Reno. In 66 at-bats this season, Pacheco was hitting .242, with a pair of home runs.
The Diamondbacks also went out and acquired Welington Castillo (along with pitcher Dominic Leone, infielder Jack Reinheimer and outfielder Gabby Guerrero) from the Seattle Mariners for Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuño on June 3rd, Since joining the Diamondbacks, Castillo has done very well at adapting to the pitching staff and is hitting .262 with four homeruns through Sunday’s game. He will now be considered the long term catcher for the rest of the season.
Oscar Hernandez, who was the Diamondbacks rule 5 draft pick in December, impressed the coaching staff with his major-league ability behind the plate and his work ethic during Spring Training. But, he fractured the hamate bone in his left-hand at the end of Spring Training and has been out ever since. Hernandez, who had been on a rehab assignment for two weeks, was called up this past Saturday and hopefully will get some MLB experience. The Diamondbacks will need to keep him on the 25 man roster for the rest of the 2015 season. If he is not on the roster, he will have to be returned to the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
The team will still need catching help in their minor league system, as Peter O’ Brien, currently at AAA Reno, has mentioned he does not want to be a full-time catcher anymore; and former 2012 first round pick, Stryker Trahan, was moved to the outfield this season. As for other catchers in the organization, Blake Lalli and Matt Pagnozzi are not even being considered as long-term options. And, the scouting reports on Ronnie Freeman and Mark Thomas are that they are seen as career minor leaguers.
There is one other player who could be exciting to see, Jose Herrera, who according to scouts was the top catcher in the 2013 international amateur class, but he is three to four years away from the major leagues, as he is just 18 years old.
If the Diamondbacks decide to move a few veterans before the July 31st trade deadline, let’s hope they are looking to acquire a catching prospect.
Check back here all season long for updates on the Arizona Diamondbacks and follow me on Twitter: @Basebaldaz. You can listen to me on NBC Sports Radio AM 1060 PHX for AZ Sports Talk Saturday from 10AM to 1PM AZ time.