Spring Training Preview: Catchers Position

Zaun will likely be the opening day catcher

With the opening of spring training just nine days away, InsideTheDome will spend the next week profiling all of the position battles that will take place this March. In this edition, we will look at the players trying to win a catching spot on the 25 man roster.

There will be four main competitors in spring training this year that will be fighting for two spots on Toronto's 25 man roster. Below is a profile of the four catchers that the Jays will take a serious look at when spring training opens later this month.

Gregg Zaun

The 33-year-old catcher will be the only catcher in spring training that has a major league deal, and is entering spring training as the likely candidate to be the opening day catcher. Zaun was originally looking for a two-year deal this off-season, however, when he could not find a team willing to guarantee him two years, he agreed to a one-year, $1.05 million contract with the Blue Jays. Gregg will likely return to the Jays in 2006 since his contract includes an option year if he appears in 70 games, a feat that he should accomplish. Zaun is a smart ball player who exhibits a solid eye at the plate, will rarely strike-out and is a positive force at the bottom of the lineup, that will occasionally show his power with the long ball. However, he brings more to the table than his offense, and Toronto considers him a luxury behind the plate as he calls a good game and can control his pitching staff. There is one blemish in his game, and that would be his throwing arm.

Gregg Zaun's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Toronto

107

338

91

24

0

6

36

46

47

61

.269

.367

.393



Greg Myers

Myers missed most of the 2004 season with a left ankle injury, and decided to give it one more shot in 2005 instead of retiring, so he agreed to a minor league contract with the Jays with an invitation to spring training. Myers would receive a salary of $700,000 if he makes the club out of spring training. The 38-year-old, however, will likely retire if he fails to make the club out of spring training. The journeyman catcher is an asset as a backup catcher. He has a strong arm, and calls an above average game, while knowing how to handle his staff. His bat might not be his best tool at this point in his career, but, Myers is very patient, and is the type of hitter that will wait for his pitch, and can still take a fastball and drive it in the alley. The biggest flaw in his game would be his speed, however, there really is not much of a speed game that you expect from a catcher. Myers is our bet to grab the backup catchers spot.

Greg Myers' 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Toronto

8

18

4

2

0

0

1

0

2

4

.222

.300

.333



Guillermo Quiroz

Quiroz is Toronto's catcher of the future, though he did not have a great 2004 season, and he is expected to return to Triple-A Syracuse to begin the 2005 season. Quiroz spent the winter playing for the Zulia Aguilas of the Venezuelan Winter League and batted .237 with six home runs and nineteen RBI. The young catcher will be in line for a promotion to Toronto if he puts up solid numbers with Syracuse during the first half of the Triple-A season. He has not yet blossomed to his potential, but the experience this spring can only help. Quiroz is a solid defensive catcher, and has potential to bat .270 with double digits home runs, but first must polish his game at the Triple-A level before the Jays can call on him to be their everyday catcher.

Guillermo Quiroz 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Toronto

17

52

11

2

0

0

6

2

2

8

.212

.263

.250

Syracuse

76

255

58

19

1

8

32

32

28

54

.227

.309

.404



Ken Huckaby

The Blue Jays signed Ken Huckaby to a minor league contract on January 10, and invited him to spring training. Huckaby, who spent some time with the Jays in 2003, is not a strong candidate to capture a spot on the 25-man-roster in April, and will likely tutor Guillermo Quiroz at Triple-A. The 34-year-old catcher does not possess much power, and it considered to be more of a line-drive hitter that hits mostly to the opposite field, as a result he is a good player to be at the plate when the hit-and-run is on. Huckaby is a pitchers delight behind the plate as he sets a low target, has a strong arm, and calls a superb game.

Ken Huckaby's 2004 statistics

Team

G.

AB

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

R

BB

K

AVG

OBP

SLG

Texas

24

50

7

3

0

0

0

4

5

12

.140

.218

.200

Oklahoma (PCL)

35

127

35

8

1

2

20

18

9

18

.276

.317

.402



Final Verdict : There should be no major surprise as which two players will be the Jays catchers when the team head north in March. Gregg Zaun should be the opening day starter, however, he could be pushed to the backup role as the summer months role around, if Quiroz has fined-tuned his hitting at Syracuse.

You can contact Bobby at BVangelatos@aol.com

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