The Mariners Catching Situation
Catcher has been an amazingly frustrating position for the Seattle Mariners for the entirety of this decade. Visions of a less than agile Rob Johnson constantly scurrying after passed balls remain vivid in the minds of fans throughout the Pacific Northwest. Jeff Clement and his irreparable career still feels like salt in the wound as the picks before and after him have flourished. It’s been bad; Rene Rivera bad. But even with the recent wrist injury to Adam Moore, Mr. Bad Luck Chuck himself, the Mariners outlook at catcher is looking the best it has since Dan Wilson was firmly entrenched as the everyday backstop.
… I’ll just nip it in the bud, I don’t think Montero is the catcher of the future. There is a decent chance that Montero can become a serviceable Major League catcher. But with the potential of a bat such as his, it’s merely going to take a foul ball off the hand or the wrist and a successive trip to the Disabled List and the Mariners will think twice about putting their potential prestigious bat back behind the plate. The risk for injury is just too high and Seattle will not be able to lose his bat for any extended period of time. Sure, injury free Montero would be incapable of adding the value to the team as a DH that he could as catcher, but it’s rare for these backstop warriors to stay healthy for an entire season. When you take into account Montero’s “floating hand”, wear and tear, and the day game after night game effect, there is too much potential for Montero to miss games and lose value.
So if Montero might not be the catcher of the future, then who is? Internally the Mariners finally have options. You might have guessed it… here comes a list (in no particular order).
1. John Jaso
Jaso isn’t the catcher of the future, but he is a face you could see fill in until that catcher is ready. Jaso may not seem like much offensively, and a sub par season last year in Tampa Bay won’t help his skeptics, but Jaso’s poor season could easily be chalked up to a strained oblique that he suffered mid season or perhaps you can chalk it up to a sophomore slump. In all likelyhood is was a combination of both. If you delve into Jaso’s minor league numbers you can get an idea of how useful Mr. Jaso can be. His ability to reach base is outstanding. Yes, he has zero pop; but who cares? As long as Jaso can mimic something of a league average hitter, call a good game, and keep the baseball in front of him then Jaso can fill in as a decent stop gap once Olivo and the Mariners part ways.
A former SS/3B, this prospect has turned into a very interesting project. He was never expected to stay at SS, but I don’t think anyone could have guessed that he would ever end up a catcher. Scouts rave about his hands and his physical projection. It’s a bizarre situation as you don’t hear too much about players moving to catcher. It’s more about moving from the position. Either way, Littlewood is young and highly projectable. Marcus has yet to play a game at Catcher, but if he blossoms offensively and becomes an above average backstop, you’re easily looking at Seattle’s best catching option of the future.
3. Jack Marder
A personal favorite of mine as a former Oregon product. As a high school product, Marder tried to pull absolutely everything, but after his time in college Marder has transformed into a more complete hitter. He is now an inside-out hitter who utilizes the entire field and he should develop gap power as he grows. Marder is still several years out, so don’t expect him knocking on the door any time soon. The potential is there, however, so keep your eye on Marder throughout the 2012 Minor League season.
Raw: the singular word to describe this intriguing talent. Questions about his defense and a commitment to college damaged Marlette’s stock. So much so that he ended up falling to the Mariners who threw a bunch of money at him and, well, the rest is… now. Marlette’s 12 games preview was unimpressive, but it was just that… 12 games. He features impressive bat speed and even though he has only displayed gap power thus far, the power is undoubtedly there, and it will come with age and maturity as a hitter. The questions about his ability behind the plate are valid, but I believe he is capable of sticking there. Some scouting reports mention him being surprisingly natural–but lacking polish. Marlett has all the right pieces; just strewn about and yet to be pieced together properly. This is another guy I recommend keeping a very close eye on this upcoming season.
A great defensive catcher that was expected to grow offensively. The pressure to grow physically was apparent as well, as Carmichael was suspended for testing positive for the PED Methylhexaneamine. He’s still 19 years old and even with the 50 game suspension upcoming he is still an interesting talent and one fans should check in on from time to time.
6. Ji-Man Choi
Choi is the athletic type and is quite agile for a 1B/C profile. His power stroke is still a work in progress, but his frame should allow for him to grow into it. Starting to see a trend? What really makes Choi attractive is his polished, mature approach at the plate. Choi would be the most interesting candidate on this list if not for his inability to stay healthy. Choi has been butchered by the injury bug thus far and his status as a catcher is in question. If Choi can put together a healthy season behind the plate, then he moves right up there with Littlewood and Marder on this list; a must watch for 2012.
Now, wait a minute. No Adam Moore? No Steve Baron? No. Moore is now 28 years old, and he might have blown his last chance this year by busting himself once again. As for Baron… that dog won’t hunt. He can’t hit. Remember Rob Johnson? Yes Baron is leagues ahead of him defensively, but that can only go so far.
There is a chance that Montero could become the catcher of the future. I don’t believe in the risk involved, but I don’t work for Zduriencik and Wedge so I am just one of many with an opinion. Catcher isn’t a easy position to fill for any team, and the Mariners have one in Montero, even if he is only average. In case the Mariners’ 50 pound brains share my anxiety about the potential for disaster involving Montero’s health, they have created a robust safety net in the potential of the raw talent listed above. It only takes one of these talents to develop and Seattle might just be… sitting pretty.