Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pirate Catching

GW ran a series in the off-season looking over the Pirate squad position-by-position. Now that they've made their moves, we're going to revisit the series and see what they look like heading into Bradenton.

The off season plan was for Ryan Doumit to be moved, Chris Snyder to man the fort for a season or two, and then Tony Sanchez would slide in. It may yet play out that way, but a Snyder/Doumit platoon is looking more and more likely in 2011, with Snyder getting the majority of the work.

Dewey and Snyder put together are the package the Pirates want, given their organizational depth at the spot. Individually, they're both lacking, but they're adequate in tandem for a second division club.

Snyder is as advertised: low average, decent OBP, good power (.207/15/48), and capable defensively (except for the maddening inability to catch throws to the plate.) Doumit actually looked good as a twice-a-week catcher, though his bat (.251/13/45) was disappointing, too.

The team has a lot of bucks tied up in these two guys: Dewey will make $5.1M and Snyder $5.75M in 2011, with hefty options for both in 2012 (Doumit - $7.25M; Snyder $6.75M), assuring that at least one, if not both, will be gone in 2012.

The Pirates can afford to carry both of them in 2011, even if their preference is to move Dewey. So far they haven't, although the word is that he's still being shopped. But most teams are set at the position.

So they'll try to rebuild his value and keep him in his hybrid role - backup catcher, very occasional right fielder (Garrett Jones move to RF should preclude Dewey seeing time there), and switch-hitting pinch hitter for the short term. Then the FO hopes to find a taker through injury or at the deadline.

If Doumit remains on the roster, management has the option to use Neil Walker as an emergency catcher; he has the pedigree although the Pirates haven't worked him out at all behind the dish to our knowledge. If not, there are a couple of internal options.

There is a chance that the Pirates could carry three catchers on their 25-man roster if Clint Hurdle uses Doumit as his top pinch-hitter. The third wheel would be Jason Jaramillo, who has the glove to stick in the show, but his 2010 BA of .149 isn't going to cut it. He still has an option remaining, so he's likely to start out at Indy in 2011.

Tony Sanchez, 22, the 2009 first rounder, was ticketed to start in High A last year, go to Altoona, and be at Indy in 2011. But a beaning and broken jaw put him at least a half-season behind in those plans. It was a tough year anyway; he had shoulder problems early on, so a break may have been in his best long-term interest.

The BC product didn't have a very strong effort in the Arizona Fall League (.206/4/9 in 68 at-bats with 21 Ks); maybe it was rust, or maybe he was swinging for the fences. Either way, he ended up with recent LASIK surgery to improve his eyes and hopefully, his performance.

But his arrival in Pittsburgh is now pushed back to 2012 at the earliest; if he has any more injury problems or hits a roadblock at the upper levels, the Pirates' catching plans in 2012 are problematic. He's probably going to start in Altoona, with the hopes that he gets to Indy during the season, the sooner the better.

And putting all the eggs in one basket does carry a risk: Ronny Paulino was the catcher of the future in 2006, then Ryan Doumit in 2008...

There are a couple of other interesting players in the system, led by Eric Fryer. Fryer, 25, was part of the return for Eric Hinske, and had a good, if shortened (he was hit in the face with a pitch in 2010, losing considerable playing time) season at Bradenton (.300/8/48).

He's a little old for his level, but athletic (they plan to work him in the OF at camp) with a good arm, and may have a future in Pittsburgh. Fryer will probably open at Altoona with Sanchez, depending on where Jaramillo starts the season.

Kris Watts, 26, may play into the Pirate plans. The 2006 draft pick is a lefty with a little pop, so-so defensive skills, and a great eye; he's got a .360 OBP and generally walks as often as he whiffs. His level in 2011 will depend on where Sanchez and Fryer land; he should be an upper level back-up.

Erik Kratz and Hector Gimenez, last year's minor-league cavalry, are both gone. Kratz went to the Phils and Gimenez to the Dodgers in the off season. They'll be replaced by Dusty Brown, 28, and Wyatt Toregas, also 28. Both are good defensive guys who have had a taste of MLB life.

The plan seems to be to use Brown/Toregas as insurance policies at Indy and Sanchez/Fryer at Altoona with Watts as a floater. Ryan Doumit being on the roster sure complicates those plans, especially if Jaramillo drops to Indy, so it will be wait-and-see to figure out where the backstops will land to start the season.

Given the logjam behind the plate, Fryer may be given an opportunity to become a full-time corner OF'er, relieving some of the pressure.

The other guys on the farm are young: Ramon Cabrera (20), Dylan Child (19), Elias Diaz (19), Jairo Marquez (22), Miguel Mendez (23), Joey Schoenfeld (19), and Matt Skirving (20). None are ready to become prime time players yet and should be A level catchers in the system.

Overall, this isn't a position of organizational strength; Tony Sanchez is the only high profile prospect. But, like the bullpen, it's a spot that can be bolstered through the market; every year seems to have a glut of good glove, so-so bat receivers to serve as insurance policies.

1 comment:

WilliamJPellas said...

I think Snyder and Doumit will be the single most overpaid platoon in major league history this coming season. Yoi and double yoi! How did an organization so strapped for cash, that so constantly whines about the economics of baseball, end up blowing $10 million-plus on these two?!? Wow. Add in Sanchez getting set back by at least half a season because of the beanball and the Bucs' catching doesn't look good for 2012. (That is, with Sanchez looking more like a guy who will get a cup of coffee in September 2012 but probably not ready to take the reins until 2013, and maybe not at the start of the year, either.)