Young Catchers: Who, Where (and Sometimes Why?)

The hot topic during the last offseason was what would the Texas Rangers do with their prospect equivalent of The Catching Molinas plus Gerald Laird. While Jarrod Saltalamaccia and Taylor Teagarden were thought to fetch Clay Buchholtz and more, both players, along with Max Ramirez, stayed put, while veteran backstop Laird was dealt to the Tigers. While the Red Sox would address their catching situation by bringing in Victor Martinez for the more reasonable price of a package centered around swingman Justin Masterson, the surplus of young catching around the league maybe be outpacing demand or simple overhyped. What’s happened to those touted backstops since the season started:

• The offense-first Saltalamaccia has largely disappointed this year hitting just .236/.293/.375 and landing on the disabled list as the Rangers make their charge towards the Wild Card. This is a far cry from his slugging powered OPS figures of .745/.721 splitting time between Atlanta and Texas in 2007 and his .716 OPS boosted by a .352 OBP last year. In a year where the more polished defender Teagarden is putting up a .228/.294/.466 line in just 176 plate appearances, Salty could find himself on the outside looking in for the starting job going into next season. Spending the year in the minors, Max Ramirez has hit .231/.317/.338.

• Miguel Montero was another ht name in the offseason and has had a breakout season thanks in part to starter Chris Snyder going down earlier in the season. Montero has put together a .296/.356/.493 line for an .848 OPS this year, good for fifth best among catchers in the majors and tops among NL starting catchers (he’s trailing Pablo Sandoval who spends most of his time at the hot corner).

• Baseball America ranked Jeff Clement as Seattle’s best prospect in 2008 but he spent the first half of 2009 in the minors before getting dealt to the Pirates in the Ian Snell deal. Clement has raked in the minors this year to the tune of .274/.355/.497 mashing 21 home runs in the process. This is a far cry from the .237/.309/.393 line he put up in just 243 major league plate appearances before Seattle gave up on him.

• While not on the trading block at any point, no discussion of young catching would be complete without a mention of Matt Wieters. After posting nothing than a 1.000 OPS in the minors, Wieters fell back to whatever Earth would be for a demi-god and knocked AAA pitchers around for “only” a .305/.387/.504 line before getting the call to the majors. As a 23 year old with 269 plate major league appearances Wieters has amassed a .263/.309/.371 line and just a .679 OPS. Clearly he has not been the monster of the minors, but will have plenty of time to adjust to the majors and resume redefining the modern catcher.

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