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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