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Under the Radar: Gunnar Troutwine

Catcher of the future? Well, let’s just say it was a solid first season and see where 2019 leads

Gun It: Seen here with Wichita State, a now-beardless Gunnar Troutwine had a successful season with Pioneer League champs Great Falls.

Under the Radar details players in the Chicago White Sox system who may have suffered setbacks, gotten lost in the shuffle, or just haven’t surfaced as significant prospects as of yet. Next up is Gunnar Troutwine, arguably the top White Sox catching prospect after Zack Collins and Seby Zavala.

Gunnar Troutwine (C) Great Falls Voyagers

Gunnar Troutwine, a native of Kansas City, Mo., had a successful four-year career with the Wichita State Shockers. He had a respectable freshman season, hitting .298/.404/.405 with three homers, 17 walks (11.6%), and 26 strikeouts (17.7%) in 121 at-bats. His playing time increased as a sophomore and produced similar numbers: .278/.371/.439 with seven homers, 28 walks (12.1%), and 60 strikeouts (25.9%) in 198 at-bats. His worst season came as a junior when he hit .224/.333/.263 with no homers, nine walks (9.9%) and 14 strikeouts (15.4%) over just 76 at-bats, as he apparently missed time due to injury.

Troutwine bounced back to have his best overall season when it really counted for him, as a senior, when he hit .302/.413/.505 over 182 at-bats with seven homers, 34 walks (15.6%), and 38 strikeouts (17.4%). As a result of his efforts, Troutwine was selected in the ninth round by the White Sox in this year’s MLB Draft — just three rounds after Shockers and eventual Voyagers teammate Codi Heuer.

Troutwine had a solid offensive year for the Pioneer League champion Voyagers in 2018. The right-handed batter hit .316/.412/.419 with two homers, 18 RBI, 19 walks and 20 strikeouts over 117 at-bats. His BABIP was quite high at .368, which may in part be attributable to the higher altitude, but not all that much higher than his NCAA career BABIP of .340. If Troutwine’s walk/strikeout ratio of 1.05 is good, his hitting approach is even better. He pulled 29.3% of pitches, hit 27.3% to the middle of the diamond, and took 43.4% of the pitches the opposite way. The biggest thing offensively to watch going forward, however, is his ability to lift the ball. His ground out/fly out ratio was 1.64, which with his size (six-foot-one, 230 pounds) and lack of speed, has limited his power numbers and also could limit hit BABIP going forward. With regular playing time, he has the strength to hit 20-plus homers per season if he makes a few tweaks to his swing.

As with most top White Sox catchers ahead of him (Zack Collins, Seby Zavala, Yermin Mercedes), Troutwine’s offense is ahead of his defense. By most accounts, his defense is considered below-average, although he does have a slightly above-average arm.

I haven’t seen many scouting reports as to why his defense is below average, but I’m guessing it’s probably more about footwork (especially with his size) than anything else. He relinquished a vast number of passed balls at Wichita State (45), but only two in 34 games for Great Falls. If he can continue that improvement throughout his minor league career, Troutwine will have a chance to move up the ranks rather swiftly. In college, he threw out 29% of attempted basestealers; he threw out 24% with Great Falls. I’ve been able to uncover no information regarding his framing abilities.

I project Troutwine to begin the 2019 season with Kannapolis, where he likely will pair with former top prospect Evan Skoug. He’ll turn 23 shortly before the season begins, and this obviously will be a huge season for him. The transition from high-altitude Great Falls to pitcher-friendly Kannapolis has proven difficult for many hitters throughout the organization.

If Troutwine can maintain his patience, gain some lift and thus take advantage of his potential power, all while continuing to improve his defense, he will have every opportunity to move up rapidly in the organization. If Troutwine struggles — or perhaps even if he doesn’t — he may have to also fight off contenders such as Jhoandro Alfaro, Ty Greene, Kleyder Sanchez, and/or a top 2020 draft choice.