In an effort to limit the number of times people use the phrase “sample size” in the comments section, a quick post on which minor league backstops to keep on your radar seems more appropriate than discussing Alex Avila’s .417-4-2-5 batting line through three games. While most rosters are set, save for a few tweaks here and there, there are a number of catchers in the minors that are looking pretty darn good. Dynasty league owners probably have them locked onto rosters already, but in other leagues, they should be known by you in case something goes wrong on the big league level.
Travis D’Arnaud, TOR — Outstanding power potential, solid batting average, a splash of speed and solid defensive skills all have D’Arnaud as the top catching prospect sitting in the minor leagues right now. His plate discipline could use a little adjustment as his strikeout rate has been a bit too high (~21.5%) these last two seasons, but that might be the only real knock on him. He should rip up the PCL this season and could force the Jays into a tough decision. J.P. Arencibia has amazing power as well and it’s hard to believe the team would eventually carry both and work a platoon. Could a trade be coming soon…?
Yasmani Grandal, SD — He was a first round choice by the Reds in the 2010 and raced through their system last year, hitting .305/.401/.500 with 31 doubles and 14 home runs while posting a 13% walk rate across three levels. So when they dangled the 23-year old, switch-hitting backstop in front of the Padres during the Mat Latos negotiations, the San Diego brass jumped at the opportunity. He still has some defensive work to improve upon, but could make a big splash in the majors sooner than later. With Nick Hundley healthy and locked in behind the plate, the Padres can easily afford to be patient with Grandal, but things could change further down the road, especially if he improves defensively and tears up PCL pitching, as most are expecting. There’s also a trade possibility, if you’ve read Dave Cameron’s piece on Hundley’s contract.
Ryan Lavarnway, BOS — The Red Sox had already committed to Jarrod Saltalamacchia as their starting backstop and picked up Kelly Shoppach as well to be the back-up. But Lavarnway made it a very tough decision for the team when he posted a .429/.488/.486 slash line this spring (there’s your “sample size” opening…). He hit 34 home runs across three levels, including a late season cup of coffee with the Sox, so you know there’s strong power. The strikeouts are too high and should keep the batting average low, but a strong walk rate will offset them and keep his on-base percentage at a very desirable rate. Salty’s got a suspect glove and Shoppach can really only hit lefties, so if Lavarnway can continue to rake in Triple-A, then he could force a call-up in the near future. Out of the three mentioned in this post, he stands the best chance of being called up first.