Spring Training Preview: Catchers

WEEK 3: CATCHERS IN THE PIRATES ORGANIZATION

The Indianapolis Indians’ parent club carries a rare mix of catchers who are talented both at and behind the plate. The Pirates’ backstop ranks at Spring Training include in-the-system talent of Elias Diaz and Tony Sanchez, and outside additions of Wilkin Castillo and Sebastian Valle. 

Potential Indians Catchers:

Wilkin Castillo

castillo-hs

Wilkin Castillo was originally signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 11, 2002.

Castillo offers the Tribe a veteran presence behind the dish with his 11-year pro career spanning nearly 1,000 games in the minor leagues. The 30-year-old backstop spent his first six seasons calling pitches in Arizona’s chain, and after excelling as the organization’s “Best Defensive Catcher” during his final year in the D’Backs’ system in 2008, was acquired by the Cincinnati Reds as a key piece in the larger deal for outfielder Adam Dunn. He has since spent parts of each of the last six seasons at the Triple-A level where he has combined to throw out a respectable 30 percent of would-be basestealers between the International, Mexican and Pacific Coast Leagues.

Making his third official stop of the offseason, the backstop arrives to Spring Training already boasting somewhat of a “leg up” on fellow camp catchers from his two-part stint in this year’s Dominican Winter Leagues. Castillo led Escogido with 19 RBIs during the DWL regular season before being drafted to the league playoffs and hitting a league-best .348 over 19 postseason games with Dean Treanor’s club, Estrellas.

Status: Non-roster invitee to big-league camp.


Elias Diaz

Elias Diaz was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an international free agent on Nov. 7, 2008.

The heir-apparent of the the Pirates’ catching duties, Diaz quietly produced strong seasons in the lower levels of the minors until recently forcing himself into the Major-League conversation with back-to-back breakout years from 2013-14. Along the way, the Venezuela native debuted with the second-best caught-stealing rate among VSL backstops in 2009, ranked second in the same category the following season in the Gulf Coast League, and in perhaps his most impressive feat to-date, led the entire South Atlantic League by throwing out a total of 48 runners attempting to steal in 2012. Add that – the stellar defense – to a 100-point increase in batting average over just two years’ time, and the result is a now-touted prospect who recently worked his way onto his first career 40-man roster.

Diaz hasn’t sputtered in continuing his success across the top two levels of the Pirates’ chain and Spring Training. The 24 year old batted .328 with a 16-game hitting streak during his Double-A debut in 2014 and earned a promotion to the Triple-A Indians during the final month of the campaign. Diaz has since seen action in two big-league games this spring, bursting onto the scene with a pinch-hit home run during his first at-bat of 2015 Spring Training.

Status: Attending camp as a member of Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster.


Tony Sanchez

Tony Sanchez was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.

A first-round draft selection and the highest pick in Boston College’s school history, Sanchez leapfrogged from the Short-Season leagues to the everyday starting backstop of the Tribe by the 2012 season. The 26 year old drew rave reviews as the “Best Defensive Catcher” in Pittsburgh’s system (by Baseball America) during each of those four seasons prior to transitioning to a more offensively-based threat behind the dish since 2012. Sanchez eclipsed his previous career-best home run totals during each year from 2012-14, and along with lifting a longball as the MVP of the Triple-A All-Star Game in 2013, also drove six of his 14 hits for extra bases during his Major League debut during that same 2013 season.

Tribe fans may only catch a glimpse of Sanchez in 2015 with the standout backstop standing on the precipice of becoming a full-time big leaguer. The Miami, Florida native spent roughly one third of the 2014 season among the Pirates’ ranks, combining to hit a solid .267 with two homers and a .300 on-base percentage over several MLB stints. Sanchez also capped the year with his first career action at first base as he continues expanding his versatility to earn playing time at both the Triple-A and Major League levels.

Status: Attending camp as a member of Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster.


Sebastian Valle

Sebastian Valle was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillias as an international free agent on Oct. 10, 2006.

Valle is a developing prospect who has displayed power potential with double-digit home run totals in three of the last five seasons. He has earned six All-Star selections during his eight-year minor-league career with the Phillies, won the Mexican Pacific League Rookie of the Year award in 2010 and even participated in the Futures Game showcase in 2011.

The 26-year-old Valle will now debut in the Pirates’ organization having split the 2014 campaign between Philadelphia’s Double-A and Triple-A squads. His most recent full-calendar year of action also dates back to his strong play with Los Mochis in the 2014 Mexican Winter League, where he .304 in 36 games during regular season and .333 in the playoffs as a Caribbean Series All-Star. Currently, Valle has gone 1-for-3 in three trips to the plate at the Pirates’ Spring Training.

Status: Non-roster invitee to big-league camp.


In the System

The remaining, headlining catcher in the Pirates’ organization is Reese McGuire, who ranks as Pittsburgh’s top backstop and No. 5 overall prospect, according to Baseball America.

McGuire was selected 14th in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and entered the 2014 season rated as a top-100 player in all of Minor League Baseball by that same publication. Although he likely isn’t on the Tribe’s 2015-season radar, McGuire may be on the relatively-near horizon after hitting .262 during his 20-year-old campaign at the Lo-A level in 2014.

Reese McGuire has produced a .282 average across three levels of the Pirates' system. (Photo by USABaseball)
First-round pick Reese McGuire has produced a .282 average across three levels of the Pirates’ system. (Photo by USABaseball)

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