Catchers...the tools of ignorance....The only warriors to take the field bearing armour. Old time baseball fans trace the lineage to names such as Mickey Cochrane, Yogi Berra, Clint Courtney, Johnny Bench, and Thurman Munson. Blue Jay fans remember Ashby, Cerone, Whitt, Martinez, Borders, O'Brien, Parrish, Martinez as in Angel, Wilson, and a myriad of others. Catchers, due to the shields they wear, are willing to sacrifice their bodies to save a wild pitch, or stand in the way of a speeding base runner attempting to step on the fortress they guard.
Today begins a series of where the Jays prospects may wind up. This article addresses those defenders of the dish. The old guard expected little more than a good glove, while these days we tend to look for a catcher who has power. We'll take a look at the current Jays' farm hands behind the plate - those to watch and those to forget. With a shortage of firstbasemen in the system, some of these guys may move positions, ala Delgado and Phelps. Also, we'll peel back the pages of time ten years to see who were in the ranks back then, and remember where they ended up.
Guillermo Quiroz at 22 years of age appears to be the new phenom. Coming off a monster year at New Haven, prospect magazines and rankings are all a glitter at what might be. With his strong defence and arm, he does seem poised for a major league future. All this said, there are a few reasons to raise an eyebrow of doubt. Quiroz, who first appeared on the scene in 1999 at Medicine Hat, has only had one other season where he hit over .225. He put up 20 homers last year, but his previous high was only 13. Is Quiroz the future, or Sandy Martinez and Julio Mosquera revisited? His bat is steadily improving, and my bet is he should put up solid numbers this year in Syracuse. The organization is using him as means to tell Kevin Cash it is time to put up or be left out.
|Quiroz - 2003 New Haven|
This is perhaps questionable, and though the Jays system is stacked with catchers, I place Tim Whittaker here. Whittaker was nearly four when Quiroz was born, but time is not short for him. He has never shown much power, but has put up two seasons in the .300 range. Although he could benefit from another season in Dunedin, New Hampshire will likely be his home.
|Whittaker - 2003 Dunedin|
I saw one report ranking Robinson Diaz the best prospect in the system. He is nearly two years younger then Quiroz, and you'll want to keep your eyes on him. He pummelled the ball last season for Pulsaki, to the tune of a .374 average. "Stat heads" don't drool over averages or singles-hitting catchers, but when you realize one third of his hits went for extra bases, he does bring something to the table. He certainly has some promise, but I have seen far too many high batting averages in Low A ball to get overly excited. He will probably start the season in Charleston, but if he can continue to hit look for him in Dunedin sooner rather than later.
|Diaz - 2003 Pulaski|
Others Worth Watching
Erik Kratz : After a solid showing in Auburn, he managed to sneak all the way up to AA for a game last season, but don't expect to see him past Dunedin in 2004.
Joseph Wolfe : A short 5'9" catcher, who as a 33rd round pick is by definition a sleeper. He may light a spark as his .314/.457/.549 at Pulaski was a good start.
Don't Worry About
Paul Chiaffredo: A 27 year old with 5 games above AA.
John Schneider: Cue 70's sitcom music.
David Corrente: Topps killed a tree to make his baseball card for nothing.
Jose Umbria: Has been organization since 1996, with 15 different stops.
Syracuse: Gerg O'Halloran - Last year in Organization.
Knoxville: Carlos Delgado - Hit his 79th homerun in ‘93, would hit 44 more in the minors.
Dunedin: Brent Lutz - Some careers are not worth remembering.
Hagerston: Sandy Martinez - Baseball America called him the catcher of the future, never hit above .265 in the minors, but did platoon in the show.
St. Catherines: Joe Durso - His final year in the system in 1994 he hit .304 with 11 homers.
Medicine Hat: David Morgan - Played till 1998 seeing only 21 games in AA.
Gulf Coast: Julio Mosquera - When BA missed on Martinez, he took the label...and dropped it.