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Minor-league Depth Check: Catchers

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A look at the backstops down in the minors

Boston Red Sox Summer Camp Workout
Connor Wong
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Among the weirdest parts of the 2020 season was that we didn’t get any minor-league season, and thus an entire season of development was lost for a whole lot of prospects. A few were able to participate in Pawtucket, but for the most part they were left on their own with just Zoom calls with coaches in the organization. Along with the lost development, players down on the farm have also fallen out of consciousness for some fans. That brings us to this series. Over the next two weeks, as we head into an offseason where the Red Sox may be looking to boost their farm system in some areas and trade out of it in others, we’re going to go position-by-position to reacclimate ourselves with the minor-leaguers all across the organization. Today, we go behind the plate.

Top Prospect

Connor Wong

At the end of the 2019 season, one area in which the Red Sox were lacking in their farm system was an impact catching prospect. While Wong isn’t going to be threatening for any sort of top 100 list, he is a legitimate prospect and easily the best in the organization at this position. The carrying tool here is the power, which he showed off in a big way in both High-A and Double-A back in 2019. The issue is there is no guarantee how much, if any, will carry into the majors due to major questions with his contact skills. If he can keep his strikeouts at a reasonable rate, though, the power will be enough to play at a position that lacks offense throughout the league.

Speaking of the position, though, it’s unlikely Wong sticks as only a catcher. He can play the position some, but his most likely role is a backup who also gets some playing time on the infield as he has played both second and third base as well. It’s not a conventional role, but it’s one that can provide some value, particularly for a Red Sox team that likely has their starting catcher already in place for the foreseeable future.

Sleeper Prospect

Jonathan Diaz

The talent pool behind Wong dries up fairly quickly, but Diaz has some sneaky upside. An under-the-radar signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, he has done nothing but put up solid numbers at every stop in his young career. Most recently, he was splitting starting reps in his age-19 at Lowell and finished with a .718 OPS. He has some work to do offensively to refine his hit tool, and defensively the athleticism is there but he’s still a bit rough around the edges. Wong is probably the only catcher in the system who can project to something close to a starting role, but Diaz could be the kind of player to take a surprising jump and suddenly find himself on the fringe of that conversation.

Others of Note

  • Deivy Grullón was acquired as a waiver pickup this summer. He’s a bat-first catcher but there is enough defense for him to stick as a backup, and he should serve as the third catcher for 2021.
  • Jhonny Pereda was a trade acquisition back in March, and has a ceiling of a backup. He’s a defense-first player who has won a Gold Glove in his minor-league career, but the bat is limited.
  • Austin Rei is a former second round pick but the bat has never developed. His defense is solid, though, and he could get a cup of coffee at some point as an emergency option.
  • Kole Cottam has long been a personal favorite of mine with solid power and a hit tool that can play well enough. His defense is the question, though, and he needs to make strides there if he’s going to have a future.
  • Roldani Baldwin was once my favorite sleeper in this position group and there is still some hidden potential there with the bat. Like Cottam, he is a bat-first player, but injuries have slowed down the development in recent years.
  • Jaxx Groshans was a fifth round pick in 2019 and has enough tools offensively to make it far up the ladder. The question will be whether his defense develops enough.
  • Naysbel Marcana received a $350,000 signing bonus in the 2018 July 2 signing period and reports were optimistic about his defense following his performance in the DSL in the summer of 2019.
  • Rivaldo Avila hasn’t gotten a chance to play as a pro yet, but he got a $405,000 bonus out of Venezuela last summer and was the fourth-highest paid player in the class.