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.
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.