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A Look at the Red Sox Minor League Catchers 2009

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A Look at the Red Sox Minor League Catchers 2009
(Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

With Jason Varitek not getting any younger and George Kottaras not looking like a No. 1 starting catcher, I decided to look into the Red Sox minor league system for a possible replacement.

To save you from any boring details I only looked at the catchers who have appeared in over 40 games and are hitting .250 or better. I then looked at the scouting reports from Sox Prospects.com for those top hitting catchers to get a feel for their defensive ability.

I looked at the stats of these catchers from AAA Pawtucket, AA Portland, A Advanced Salem, A Greenville, A Short Season Lowell & R Ft. Myers through 7/29/09.

This whittled the list down to four catchers, two of whom are still in level A ball, we’ll start with them. The other two come from both Portland and Pawtucket.

 

Tim Federowicz

After 76 games between single A Greenville (55 games) and Salem Advanced (21 games), Federowicz had some pretty impressive numbers. He scored 43 runs on 94 hits (most than any other catcher in the Sox system), 24 of those were doubles and 11 were HRs (most than any other catcher in the Red Sox system), while knocking in 40 RBIs.

He also hit for an average of .278 with an OBP of only .316 with two SBs. Unfortunately, he also has more errors than any other catcher in the system with eight. Another mark against him is his BB/K ratio of 18/53.

Here’s the scouting report on his ability behind the plate (from Sox Prospects.com):

Behind the plate, Federowicz presently is above average defensively, and has the tools to develop into a very good major league defensive catcher. Extremely strong and accurate arm with a quick release.  Outstanding at throwing runners out.  Calls a good game and handles the pitching staff well.  Glovework can use a little bit of improvement.

 

Luis Exposito

Exposito has played all of his 74 games in single A Salem Advanced and most of his numbers, except for runs, hits and HRs, are improvements from Federowicz. He scored only 28 runs on 78 hits, 24 of those were doubles, one triple and six were HRs (second most in the Red Sox system), while knocking in 45 RBIs.

He also hit for an average of .279 with an OBP of .338 with three SBs. Unfortunately, he also has the second most errors with seven. Another mark against him is his BB/K ratio of 23/48.

Here’s the scouting report on his ability behind the plate (from Sox Prospects.com):

Behind the plate, Exposito has tremendous catcher's tools, including very good blocking skills, a strong arm, great instincts, and outstanding game calling ability.  However, he could use some improvement with his glovework and his throwing accuracy.  Gunned down 28.5 percent of attempted base stealers in 2008, which is below average.

Juan Apodaca

Apodaca has played all of his 41 games in AA Portland where he has scored 19 runs on 35 hits, nine of them being doubles and two HRs while knocking in 17 RBIs. He also hit for an average of .250 with an OBP of .325 with one SB. He has four errors from behind the plate and another mark against him is his BB/K ratio of 14/34.

Here’s the scouting report on his ability behind the plate (from Sox Prospects.com):

Apodaca has good catching skills and a strong arm.  Works with pitchers well.

 

Mark Wagner

Wagner is currently in Triple A Pawtucket where he has played in 16 games and is currently catching knuckleballer Charlie Zink. He played 42 games in AA Portland. He has scored a total of 26 runs on 58 hits, 25 of them being doubles and three HRs while knocking in 26 RBIs.

He also hit for an average of .256 with an OBP of .334 with one SB. He has only one error from behind the plate and that’s after catching Zink. He also sports a BB/K ratio of 32/37. His AA/AAA splits are also noteworthy. He hit .301 with an OBP of .410 and a BB/K ratio of 28/26 in Portland in those 42 games.

In the 16 games in Pawtucket so far, he has only hit .211 with an OBP of .258 and a BB/K ratio of 4/11. I wonder how much of his adjustments in Pawtucket have to do with working on catching the knuckleball.

Here’s the scouting report on his ability behind the plate (from Sox Prospects.com):

Good defensive catcher with a sturdy frame.  Excellent at throwing runners out.  Average at blocking balls in the dirt and catching mistake pitches off the plate.  Calls a good game, but needs to improve framing pitches.  Nimble behind the plate, looks very good fielding bunts.  Has the potential to be an excellent defensive catcher at the major league level.  He is said to be an extremely hard worker with strong leadership ability.

My Analysis

Federowicz has to work on his glove work (eight errors) as was noted in the scouting report. In my opinion, this is critical to a catcher’s job security, but maybe this can be improved along with his plate discipline.

I do like what his bat brings to the table, especially his power numbers. Other than that and MiLB seasoning, he might be a viable option in three or four years. Unfortunately, it would be unwise to play more than another year with Varitek as the Red Sox starting catcher.

Exposito, I am told, is high up on the prospect list internally for the Red Sox. He too needs to strengthen his glove work (seven errors) and after reading his scouting report, I wonder how many of those errors were throwing related. Other than that, the scouts have given him glowing reviews defensively and with a little more plate discipline, he would be a very good offensive catcher in the majors.

Apodaca is not as highly evaluated by the scouts defensively as the rest of these guys are, but he is now the starting catcher in Portland (I believe) so he’ll be a player to look out for in the second half to see if his defense improves. His bat alone isn’t good enough to make it.

If Wagner can bring his offensive numbers closer to his Portland totals, with more games under his belt, along with his ability to catch Zink (barring no obvious hiccups), he just might get called up to Boston in September.

The only player in his way is current Pawtucket catcher Dusty Brown and Brown would need one of two things to happen in order to block Wagner. Either Wagner struggles to hit like he did in Portland or Brown starts hitting at least 20 to 30 points higher than he is currently.

The only knock the scouts had on Wagner behind the plate was in framing pitches and I assume that can easily be learned.

 

Honorable Mention

John Otness is currently playing at AAA Pawtucket after starting the year in AA Portland. He is having a good offensive year so far, but doesn’t seem to be too high on the Red Sox depth chart at the catcher position.

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