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Minor League Catchers

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Another day, another column at The Hardball Times. Today I looked at how minor league catchers did against the running game. To do that, I calculated three stats:

  • SB%: the rate at which opposing basestealers succeeded against the catcher;
  • ATT/I: number of SB attempts per inning (a rough measure of how much opposing teams fear the catcher's arm);
  • SB/I: number of successful SB attempts per inning.
If I had to choose just one, I'd put the most stock in the third: the whole point of having a good arm is preventing guys from running. If opposing teams almost never run, but successfully pick their spots when they do, it isn't really a bad reflection on the catcher.

In the THT article, I have top ten lists for each stat (as well as a bottom ten for SB%) and then complete stats for 25 catchers of interest, including big prospect names like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jeff Clement, Rule 5 Pick Jesus Flores, and former BCB craze Jeff Mathis. Here are complete stats for all catchers in the Milwaukee organization who caught close to 100 innings:

Name Lg Lev IP SB CS SB% ATT/I SB/I
Jean Boscan SL AA 302.3 31 17 64.6% 15.9% 10.3%
Andrew Bouchie PIO RK 318.7 47 19 71.2% 20.7% 14.7%
Carlos Corporan FSL A+ 445.3 39 21 65.0% 13.5% 8.8%
Nestor Corredor FSL A+ 173.7 16 9 64.0% 14.4% 9.2%
Nestor Corredor SAL A 320.0 25 9 73.5% 10.6% 7.8%
Jesse D'Amico AZL RK 106.0 31 7 81.6% 35.8% 29.2%
Mark Johnson PCL AAA 356.0 33 6 84.6% 11.0% 9.3%
CJ Medlin FSL A+ 336.7 27 19 58.7% 13.7% 8.0%
Chad Moeller PCL AAA 318.0 18 17 51.4% 11.0% 5.7%
D. J. Neyens PIO RK 97.0 19 6 76.0% 25.8% 19.6%
Lou Palmisano SL AA 827.7 61 28 68.5% 10.8% 7.4%
Kyle Phillips FSL A+ 162.7 13 8 61.9% 12.9% 8.0%
Mike Rivera PCL AAA 441.0 29 16 64.4% 10.2% 6.6%
Vinny Rottino PCL AAA 138.3 16 8 66.7% 17.3% 11.6%
Angel Salome SAL A 642.0 56 38 59.6% 14.6% 8.7%
Ulrich Snijders AZL RK 150.7 25 14 64.1% 25.9% 16.6%
Jordan Swaydan PIO RK 153.7 14 11 56.0% 16.3% 9.1%
Brett Whiteside AZL RK 162.3 43 7 86.0% 30.8% 26.5%
Bradley Willcutt SAL A 211.7 27 14 65.9% 19.4% 12.8%

I wouldn't put much stock in any numbers accumulated in less than 300 IP, and really anything under 500-600 isn't that reliable. But it does give you the basic idea. One more note: in general, players run more at the lower levels. That means that, in general, Corredor's SB/I of 7.8% is actually a bit more impressive than Palmisano's 7.4%. For level averages, once again I'll point you back to the THT article (averages are at the very bottom).

There's lots of good news here, especially from Salome. Teams don't seem to be too afraid of him, but in low-A, there are .105 steals per inning, and he allowed only .087. Palmisano is the opposite: teams didn't run on him much, but he wasn't as successful throwing them out when he did. Either way, our current and former prospects seem to be defensively competent, if not more.

As I point out in the column, there is of course more to catcher defense: keeping the ball in front of you (preventing passed balls and wild pitches) and calling a good game. I'm going to look at the first one of those in a column in the near future; the last one is quite a bit more slippery. I have some ideas on how to attack it, but it's a longer-term project.