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Deep Dive: Catcher Edition, Part 1

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Who from the system’s lowest levels could become one of Chicago’s best catchers?

A Dash of Contact: Carlos Perez is the likeliest of the three Kannapolis catchers to earn a promotion to Winston-Salem for 2019.
Tiffany Wintz

“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the White Sox organization. Each position will be a four-part series:

  1. Depth in the lower levels (Dominican through Kannapolis)
  2. Depth in the higher levels (Winston-Salem through Charlotte)
  3. Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
  4. Free-agent options at that position, plus sneak peeks into available players in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.

So to begin, let’s take a look at the catching depth in the organization, beginning with players who caught for the DSL Sox, AZL Sox, Great Falls and Kannapolis squads. Ages listed are as of April 1, 2019.


Kannapolis Intimidators

Carlos Perez
5´10´´
160 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 22

Aside from perhaps Perez’s 2015 season with the DSL White Sox, he enjoyed his best season this year with Kannapolis. He hit .290/.298/.395 for the Intimidators, with three homers, 32 RBIs, four walks and 31 strikeouts over 276 at-bats. To be sure, Perez doesn’t accept the free pass easily, but he doesn’t strike out much either — he’s struck out just 55 times in 763 career minor league at-bats. Perez is considered a decent defensive catcher; the bad news is he allowed 13 passed balls in 2018, the good is gunning down 36% of attempted basestealers (23 of 64). Perez is almost surely heavier than the 160 pounds he’s officially listed at. Perez will be Rule-5 eligible this year, but with only played one year in full season baseball to date, he should fly under the radar. Look for Perez at Winston-Salem in 2019.

Michael Hickman
6´1´´
215 pounds
Bats: Left
Age: 22
Additional position: First Base

Hickman has a sturdier frame than Perez, which should indicate greater power potential. However, it hasn’t translated yet to games. For the year, Hickman hit .241/.298/.339, with three homers, 33 RBIs, 19 walks and 82 strikeouts over 286 at-bats. Hickman definitely has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, but the potential power in his left-handed bat is intriguing. He played nearly the same number of innings at catcher and first (239 13 and 233, respectively); as a backstop, he threw out 29.6% of attempted base stealers in 2018 while committing four errors and seven passed balls. He also has the opportunity for promotion to Winston-Salem in a combination catcher/first base/DH role in 2019.

Evan Skoug
5´11´´
200 pounds
Bats: Left
Age: 23

Skoug struggled mightily on offense in 2018, to the tune of .192/.283/.299 with five homers, 31 RBIs, 34 walks and 93 strikeouts over 271 at-bats. Of the three Kannapolis catchers, Skoug is the likeliest to walk — but also the likeliest to strike out. He was a terrific power hitter at TCU, so there’s still hope he can pick it up a notch next year. While considered the least-skilled defensively of these three catchers, Skoug cut down 34.6% of attempted base stealers this year, which is actually quite good. He may end up being a platoon hitter, as he’s only hit .113 against southpaws in his two years with Kannapolis. Expect Skoug to return to the Intimidators for 2019, with a chance for early promotion if he gets on an early hot streak.


Great Falls Voyagers

Gunnar Troutwine
6´1´´
230 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 23

Troutwine was the ninth round pick for the White Sox in the 2018 MLB Draft, and his hitting ability was as good as advertised. He hit .316/.412/.419 for the Voyagers with two homers, 18 RBIs, 19 walks, and 20 strikeouts over 117 at-bats. Troutwine destroyed southpaws in an admittedly small sample size, sporting a .471/.625/.588 slash line. Troutwine is considered a slightly below-average defensive catcher, but allowed just two passed balls during his 34 games behind the plate; he did allow 45 stolen bases on his watch, stopping attempted thefts 23.7% of the time. Expect Troutwine to begin next season with Kannapolis.

Jhoandro Alfaro
6´1´´
180 pounds
Bats: Both
Age: 21

Alfaro is considered by many to be the best defensive catcher in the White Sox organization. As a bonus in 2018, Alfaro enjoyed his most successful offensive season so far, which isn’t surprising due to the high altitude of the Pioneer League. He hit .250/.298/.385 over 96 at-bats, with three homers, 18 RBIs, two stolen bases, three walks, and 18 strikeouts. Interestingly, Alfaro hit .250 against lefties and righties alike. He committed just two passed balls in his 28 games, but he did eliminate 31.5% of attempted base thefts. It’s possible he’s promoted to Kannapolis to start 2019, but more likely he’ll return to Great Falls with a chance for promotion in August.

Adam McGinnis
5´11´´
225 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 24

McGinnis provided the best power display among the Great Falls catchers in 2018, hitting .235/.309/.469 with six homers, 16 RBIs, nine walks and 32 strikeouts in 98 at-bats. He doesn’t really profile as a platoon hitter, basically doing all of his damage against righthanders. He was successful in thwarting just two of 22 base stealing attempts in 2018 (9.1%). Due to his age and inability to limit the opponents’ running game, it will be difficult for this undrafted WIU Leatherneck to either stay in Great Falls or earn promotion to Kannapolis in 2019 (barring injuries) — especially if the White Sox select a college catcher in the upcoming 2019 MLB Draft.


Arizona League White Sox

Ty Greene
6´0´´
185 pounds
Bats: Left
Age: 21
Additional position: Left Field

Other than hitting for power, Greene did everything expected of him offensively in 2018. The 16th round pick from the University of California hit .313/.403/.367 for the AZL Sox, with seven doubles, 11 RBIs, 17 walks and 14 strikeouts in 128 at-bats, distinguishing himself in a crowded group of AZL backstops. Greene hit .356 against righthanders and just .220 against southpaws, but it’s way too early to relegate him to platoon duties. In 35 games, Greene allowed 35 of 42 attempted base stealers to accomplish their goals. Nonetheless, Greene seems the likeliest of AZL catchers to begin 2019 with a promotion to Great Falls.

Jose Colina
6´0´´
180 pounds
Bats: Both
Age: 21

Colina had a surprisingly ineffective season in 2018 with the AZL White Sox. After hitting .327/.367/.436 for the AZL Sox in 55 at-bats in 2017, Colina struggled at .169/.271/.203, with eight RBIs, eight walks and 15 strikeouts in 59 at-bats. He was successful in throwing out 25% of attempted base stealers in 2018, although Colina is not considered a great defensive catcher by any means. Look for him to return to the AZL White Sox in 2019.

Kleyder Sanchez
5´10´´
170 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 19

Sanchez had an incredible 2017 with the DSL Sox, hitting .342/.383/.381. Whether owing to the cultural transition of settling into a new country, and/or sharing catching duties in a four-man rotation, the youngster had troubles from the outset in 2018. For the year, Sanchez hit just .094/.197/.132 in 53 at-bats, with no homers, six RBIs, one stolen base, five walks and eight strikeouts. At least his walk and strikeouts rates were relatively good, and he still has plenty of time on his side. More disconcerting is the fact that Sanchez only threw out one of 19 attempted base stealers (5.3%), a far cry from his 46.6% success rate with the DSL Sox. Sanchez should return to the AZL White Sox in 2019.

Gabriel Ortiz
6´0´´
210 pounds
Bats: Left
Age: 19
Additional position: First Base

Drafted in the 19th round as a prep catcher from Puerto Rico, Ortiz had the smallest amount of playing time among the AZL catchers — and unsurprisingly struggled as a result. With that said, Ortiz’s results were actually better than those posted by either Colina or Sanchez: .214/.267/.238 in 42 at-bats with no homers, five RBIs, three walks and six strikeouts. In 14 at-bats against southpaws, Ortiz went hitless. Ortiz threw out one of four attempted base stealers this year. Ortiz should return the the AZL White Sox for 2019.


Dominican Summer League White Sox

Jefferson Mendoza
6´0´´
170 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 18

Mendoza struggled in his first season as a pro: In 121 at-bats encompassing 38 games, he hit just .207/.289/.289, with one homer, 15 RBIs, 12 walks and 26 strikeouts. There is hope here, though as he did .333 in August. Mendoza is considered a plus defensive catcher, although he committed a relatively high number of passed balls (12). He was wildly successful in cutting down the running game, thwarting 46.2% (24 of 52) of attempted thefts. I expect Mendoza should return to the DSL White Sox in 2019.

Luis Pineda
6´1´´
209 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 17

I’m cheating a bit here, as Pineda was added on International Signing Day this past July 2, and will likely begin his professional career in 2019. Pineda was recognized as a hard-hitting catcher when signed, receiving a $300,000 signing bonus, the maximum the White Sox could offer. He will begin 2019 with the DSL White Sox.

Richard Garcia
6´1´´
185 pounds
Bats: Right
Age: 20

Garcia hit .195/.255/.285, which is not very impressive. But it was quite an improvement over his numbers the year before, when Garcia slashed just .115/.193/.192. Over his 123 at-bats in 2018, Garcia hit one homer, 20 RBIs, nine walks and had 26 strikeouts. He was successful in thwarting 25.8% of stealing attempts, although 60 stolen bases is a lot to allow in 38 games behind the plate; he also committed 11 passed balls. Due to expanded rosters in the rookie leagues, most teams keep three or four catchers. Garcia earns a slight nod here over Johneiker Betancourt, who played first base more than he caught in 2018. Thus, Garcia should return to the DSL Sox in 2019.


Summary

The overall White Sox catching depth in the lower levels is relatively weak. Some nice years were posted by Perez, Troutwine and Greene — and Perez is the best of the three defensively. There are some catchers who have potential, but struggled immensely in 2018, particularly Skoug, Colina, Sanchez, and Mendoza. Alfaro, arguably the system’s best defensive catcher, struggled in the latter half of 2018 — hitting .250 in the Pioneer League is like hitting .210 elsewhere. Catchers are notorious for taking a long time to hone their craft, both offensively and defensively, but to date, there are no catchers in the lower levels who possess a solid combination of significant offensive and defensive skills. This is why many fans are looking to catching prospects like Baylor’s Shea Langeliers, and especially Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman at the No. 3 pick for the White Sox next June.

Next up is a dive into the catching situation from Winston-Salem to Charlotte.