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Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A second attempt at predicting the Thunder roster: Catcher

In  a series of texts last month between myself and Donnie Collins, who covers the Triple-A Yankees for the Scranton Times-Tribune, I remarked that this year had become by far the most difficult in terms of trying to come to even a rough sketch of what the upper levels of the system might look like come April. 

In fact, I said, I could put together a hypothetical Double-A outfield consisting solely of players who I think have a serious chance to be cut from camp before the season starts. There are simply too many machinations and moving parts, and too much clutter in the organization overall. 

By clutter, I'm referring to players who are done proving themselves at their respective levels,  players who have no real shot at making the major leagues with the Yankees and are biding their time until they can find either another organization or another job entirely, or players who were signed this offseason to provide major league depth on the Triple-A roster. 

In what had to look like a scene from a mental hospital, I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon putting together incarnation after incarnation of the 24 players who will open the season in Trenton. In the end, I came up with a list of 38 players whom I think have a shot at Double-A to begin 2012. Here, sorted by position, is that list:




21. Ray Kruml


38. Josh Romanski

I went over the rotation the other day on the blog, so today we'll talk about what's likely to be the Thunder's weakest position (in the first half): catcher.

Until J.R. Murphy is ready after the Florida State League All-Star break, there will be, I imagine, four candidates for the Thunder's starting catcher. They are, in order of likeliness:

1. Jose Gil
2. Mitch Abeita
3. Kyle Higashioka
4. Ryan Baker

Gil has tons of experience as Trenton's backup, and with Austin Romine and Gustavo Molina the likely duo at Triple-A, it seems he'll finally get a few months to be the man at Waterfront Park. With Trenton last year, Gil hit .253/.344/.394 with six home runs and 35 RBIs.

Over the year, Gil put together In a couple of interesting (OK, maybe only to me) statistical notes:

-- Five of Gil's six bombs came against either the Portland Sea Dogs (Eammon Portice, Alex Wilson, Brock Huntzinger) or the Binghamton Mets (Robert Carson, Collin McHugh).

-- For whatever reason, he was Conan the Barbarian in the fifth inning. Over 24 at-bats in that frame, Gil hit .458/.535/.750 with a pair of longballs. That's pretty impressive and also very crazy.

If Gil is the starter, then who is his backup? To be totally honest, I have absolutely no idea. Higashioka, Abeita and Baker each have viable claims the job.

Abeita, while splitting time in his repeat of Tampa last season, threw out 35 of 75 potential basestealers. He's proven over his four minor league seasons that he can't really hit a lick, but that's to be expected of a potential second-string catcher at Double-A.

Higashioka, who is still in big league camp, has spent last season bouncing back and forth between Charleston and Tampa. Still, he's just 21 (he'll turn 22 on April 20, when the Thunder face Harrisburg at home), and has time to put it together.

Then there's Baker, who's spent a lot more time at Double-A than his Baseball Reference card shows. He was with the team for most of last year, but spent most of his time catching bullpens and working out while on the paper disabled list.

If I had to guess right now, and I made this post, so I do, I'd guess that Gil, Higashioka and Baker come north with the Thunder, while Abeita faces either a second repeat of High-A, or an outright release. 


Anonymous nyyfaninlaaland said...

Haven't commented here before, but have read your stuff often.

My thinking is Gil and Abeita are the guys, Baker sticks to his roving, only playing when somwebody's hurt role, and Higashioka tries to get it together in Tampa again.

Higgy could be the first call up if he succeeds in Tampa, pushing Abeita aside.

I think NY will give Murphy more time in Tampa to work on his catching skills, despite their using him in ST at 3B. But with good success his bat could get him pushed along more quickly, and if so, he'll probably also be worked at the 4 corners to allow him to be promoted more quickly and be more useable. Or he's stays, but if Gary Sanchez gets promoted to Tampa midseason (assuming he doesn't start there) Murph could also get more time moving around in the 2nd half in Tampa.

The interesting situation would come if Higgy doesn't lift his game, Murphy is only middling, and Sanchez is tearing it up. As you say, lots of moving parts.

March 14, 2012 at 11:02 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with this assessment. Higgy will go to Tampa and give it another go. He isn't fodder yet. I believe it will Gil and Albieta to open in Trenton. Gil is having a great spring by the way.

March 17, 2012 at 8:10 AM 

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