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Stryker Trahan: Building a D-Backs Backstop

When scouting, the first instinct is to comp. You fight the urge, knowing every player is an individual, but the desire to quantify the unknown inevitably creeps into your thoughts. Who has a similar body type? A similar swing? Approach? Range and athleticism? Background? Instinctively, you formulate a first impression by answering one question: Who does he remind me of?

Then there are prospects like Stryker Trahan. The attributes packed into his dense 5-foot-10 frame are anything but ordinary:

Legs that look like oak trees.
Enormous biceps.
Potential plus-plus power to all fields.
Advanced knowledge of the strike zone.

Trahan knows how talented an offensive player he can be. Asked last week about his hitting ability, the 19-year-old Arizona Diamondbacks catching prospect said:

“I’m staying through the ball real nice. The ball is jumping off my bat real well. I can hit the long ball, but I’m [concentrating on] hitting for average right now. I’m not really looking for the long ball just yet. But I have power.”

Yes, he does. Last week, in a game against a Rockies minor-league squad, he laced three doubles to the opposite field. The left-handed hitter produced his power by using his muscular lower half and his strong wrists to thrust his hips open and whip his compact swing through the hitting zone. Usable strength is rarely seen in a teenager. So are teenagers Trahan’s size.

His size is a concern. The last catcher who neared Trahan’s bulk was Pablo Sandoval, who successfully moved to third base — but Stryker isn’t Panda. It is nearly impossible to project him anywhere but behind the dish. Despite being a good athlete, he doesn’t profile well at an outfield corner, and first base comes with onerous hitting requirements. Ultimately, he projects as an offensive-minded major league catcher.

His defense is a work-in-progress, which he acknowledges.

“Catching-wise, I’m working on pretty much everything,” Trahan said. “Overall, I’m just trying to be a more consistent catcher. My receiving, mobility behind the plate, getting down blocking balls, transfers, throwing to second. I’m working a lot on technique, like getting my feet in the right place and staying low within my legs to get my velocity going. Pretty much everything.”

His throwing arm is strong and accurate, but the rest of his game needs considerable work. Trimming down should aid that development.

“I’m trying to get a little smaller and quicker,” Trahan said. “I come in early and get some extra work done, keeping my body ready for the season. I’m doing a lot of hip mobility stuff to get me fully able to maneuver around the plate.”

The ability to maneuver behind the dish is an important element of receiving and framing pitches. His lack of mobility places him in poor positions, forcing him to stab at the ball instead of frame it. He won’t need to slim down much — he’s an exceptional athlete for his build — but monitoring his size and mobility will be crucial as he ages.

With Miguel Montero under contract through 2014, the Diamondbacks have no incentive to rush Trahan‘s development. His bat projects as plus, and his natural athleticism should allow him to continue to get better behind the plate. Both he and the organization agree that’s where his future is.

“They’re confident I’ll be a catcher,” Trahan said. “They really believe in it, and I believe it too.”

Interview by David Laurila.
Scouting Observations by J.D. Sussman.