Erik Kratz, the All-Star

Erik Kratz is not a household name. Even if you follow Minor League Baseball on a regular basis you’ve probably never heard of him. He’s never been at the top of the prospect lists for either of the organizations he’s played for: Toronto and Pittsburgh.

Kratz is 29 years year. He’s played eight minor league seasons, seven of which came in the Toronto system. He signed his first contract in 2002 after playing at a small college in Pennsylvania. The catcher began his playing career in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada (a now-defunct affiliate). Kratz is also one of the few Mennonite players in professional baseball.

You may not have heard about Kratz, but any pitcher who has ever thrown to him probably remembers his name. Toronto minor league pitchers used to rave about throwing to the defensive specialist. Kratz excels at game calling and receiving. He also regularly throws out 30-35% of base runners attempting to steal. His career offensive line is an uninspiring .248/.316/.419 but he possesses intriguing power and Kratz has never had the ability to play everyday – at least until this season, his inaugural year in the Pirates organization.

In his first true opportunity to play everyday, Kratz is currently hitting .269/.327/.428 with five homers and 17 doubles in 201 at-bats. He’s also a perfect 6-for-6 stealing bases and he’s creaming left-handed pitchers with a .357 batting average (a career-long trend). Recently, Kratz was named to the triple-A all-star game, which was held last night. He went 2-for-2 with a double and a homer and was named the game’s MVP.

At the age of 29, time is running out for Kratz but he certainly has something left in the tank. His years of playing the backup should have helped to ease some of the strain on his body from the rigors of the position. He has more than enough offensive potential to justify a back-up role on a big league club (not unlike Sal Fasano). Kratz’ defense is above-average, he’s a smart player and a good teammate, from all reports. The Pittsburgh Pirates organization already has four catchers on the 40-man roster, including Ryan Doumit, Jason Jaramillo, Robinzon Diaz, and Steven Lerud. The first three are legitimate big-league players, so Pittsburgh is probably not the right organization for Kratz at this point. With any luck, though, he made a name for himself in front of scouts last night and a team in need of some big-league catching depth will keep Kratz’ name in mind.

No, he’ll never be a big-league star, but Erik Kratz is a perfect No. 3 catcher for just about any organization. He’s one of those unsung minor-league heroes who deserves at least a cup of coffee in The Show.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

9 Responses to “Erik Kratz, the All-Star”

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  1. Get Untracked says:

    Sure, but how many teams need three catchers on their 25-man MLB roster?

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  2. Marc says:

    By third catcher, I mean the guy that can come up if/when the top two are hurt. Sorry for the confusion… In Pittsburgh he’s at least fourth on the depth chart, if not fifth.

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  3. steve says:

    Tim Wakefield, Erik Kratz. Kratz, Wakefield.

    Now go play nice together.

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  4. Cubbie says:

    Please send this article to Jim Hendry ASAP.

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  5. Colm says:

    “Sure, but how many teams need three catchers on their 25-man MLB roster?”
    The Mariners could use one real catcher. It sounds as if Kratz could be as good as any of their “#2″ catchers.

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  6. Ben says:

    Kratz went to Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia – not Pennsylvania.

    But great article! Thanks for sharing this story.

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  7. Michael N says:

    You, are right about Kratz, I watched him play 7/26/09 against The Buffalo Bisons at Indianapolis he is a good catcher with an excellent arm his hitting is very suspect
    and I think that lack of consistancy at the plate is his major disadvantage. to making it to the majors.

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  8. Finn says:

    Further adding to the great Erik Kratz story is the fact that, ALMOST exactly a year to the day after this article was written, he gets his first callup to the bigs. DURING the All-Star game. This is almost prophetic in retrospect. Nice!

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  9. wayne kratzer says:

    I’m also a grad of Eastern Mennonite; and Erik’s record there was outstanding. I believe any team who would have him would improve their team. Good article on his potential. I pray he will get a chance to show what he can do. way one

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