Catching Up on Rule 5 Catchers


In the absence of any big moves, the Rays have two glaring needs to address in the off-season, the catcher position andthe bullpen. Over the next two weeks, we will take a look at some potential Rule 5 diamonds in the rough that could perhaps help out in 2009 be hidden behindthe abundance of versatile depthin the hopes of future returns beyond 2009.  This week we will take a look at a pair of available catchers who may be of interest.

 

First, lets put things in perspective. It is very difficult to find a player, particularly a catcher, in the rule 5 draft andhave them survive the season on the 25-man roster. Earlier this week, R.J. Anderson provided a list of rule 5 catchers selected in the past decade. I added some color to this list with their level, OBP, and SLG from the season prior to each player's selection:

 

Year

Catcher

Age

Level

OBP

SLG

Stick

Draft

2009

Lou Palmisano

26

AA

0.368

0.419

No

3rd '03

2009

James Skelton

24

AA

0.425

0.388

No

14th '04

2006

Jesus Flores

22

A+

0.335

0.482

Yes

AFA

2006

Adam Donachie

22

A+

0.375

0.467

No

2nd '02

2006

Ryan Budde

27

AAA

0.267

0.398

No

12th '01

2002

Ronny Paulino

21

A+

0.353

0.392

No

AFA 97

 

Notes:

-Palmisano put up good offensive numbers at every level of the minors he played. He failed to stick with the Astros, was offered back to Brewers who declined, and then refused assignment from the Astros. He played independent baseball in 2009 with the Pensacola Pelicans. Palmisano was between a rock anda hard place buried behind catching prospects J.R. Towles with Houston and Jonathan LuCroy with Milwaukee. I have no idea how his defense plays, but his offense isn't something to immediately discard for a catcher.

-Skeltonfailed to stick to the 25-man but a deal was worked out for the Diamondbacks to keep him. He struggled in a 239 AA plate appearances in 2009 with a slash of .182/.341/.248 despite an awesome 19.5% BB%.

-Flores was able to make the leap with the Nationals in 2007 directly from A+ ball. In 197 PA, he posted a slash of .244/.310/.361.

 

Now that there is an understanding of how difficult it would be for a player to stick, let's see which players could possibly be of interest to the Rays. :

Age

Level

Bats

PA

BB%

K%

BA

OBP

SLG

ISO

Team

Anthony Recker

26

AAA

R

306

9.3%

29.4%

0.261

0.333

0.449

0.188

A's

Koby Clemens

23

A+

R

492

10.8%

25.8%

0.345

0.419

0.636

0.291

Astros

Koby Clemens Age 23 Astros

Its rare to find a player, let alone a catcher,  who has just posted a 1.000 OPS in A+ available in a Rule 5 draft. Yet that'sexactly what Clemens did for the Astros farm team in 2009 with a slash of .345/.419/.636 and 22 home runs. The glaring weakness is his defense as he allowed 20 passed balls and threw out approximately 20% of base runners in 2009. Nonetheless the bat has to be intriguing, There's a good chance Clemens does not stick to catcher, but those offensive numbers play around the diamond. There is almost no chance he would catch for a major league club in 2009, but the Rays have two things going for them. Obviously offensive depth is not as important in the AL, and the Rays are blessed with a talented array of players who can perform at multiple positions.

 

Anthony Recker Age 26 Athletics

As our friends from the A's blog recently pointed out, the A's have a surplus of catching prospects on hand behind Kurt Suzuki. With Luke Donaldson and Landon Powell in the fold, Recker could be a player slipping through the cracks. Recker was originally an 18th round draft choice of Oakland in 2005 out of Alvernia College in Pennsylvania.  Recker has put up solid offensive numbers as he worked his way through the A's system culminating in a AAA 2009 performance of .261/.333/.449. His glaring weakness has been his strikeout rate which has pretty consistently hovered around 30% throughout the minors. He makes the most of his swings as evidenced by a 2009 ISO of .188. 

Towards the end of 2009, Dioner Navarro's primary role was to catch on the days when the Rays faced LHP. Offering arbitration to Navi could result in a hefty price tag for a catcher who would play 1/3 of the games. Recker has consistently posted wider splits relative to his overall numbers than is typical:

 

 

vs LHP

vs RHP

 

BA

OBP

SLG

BA

OBP

SLG

2008

0.34

0.396

0.536

0.255

0.332

0.408

2009

0.276

0.374

0.571

0.246

0.315

0.386

 

Based solely on his offensive game, it seems as though Reckerc ould be a much less costly option for Navarro's lesser used half of the platoon. It also would not come witht he opportunity cost associated with a trade. Jeff Bennett and Elliot Johnson are both currently occupying 40-man spots and most likely have little future with the MLB club.

It is a long shot that the organization would select a catcher in the Rule 5 draft, but Recker could be the best of the lot for immediate contribution while Clemens represent a chance to steal a potential big bat at no cost.

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