An Appreciation of the Organizational Glut of Catchers

Earlier today, I had an article up on Baseball Nation on the bizarre fascination the Twins have with Matt Capps. It cost them one of their prized prospects in Wilson Ramos. It wasn't a big deal until Joe Mauer broke and came back as a part-time catcher. For the year, Twins catchers hit .185/.250/.259. That's Johnny LeMaster-bad for 162 games. In the meantime, Ramos emerged as a future star for the Nationals. Whoooops.

This is an important parable for Giants fans for two obvious reasons. The first is that the Giants, too, had an Golden American Hero break while playing catcher. The second is that the Giants' top-ten prospect list is filled with catchers -- up to 30% on most of the lists you'll read

There's a pretty strong chance that the team will never have to figure this out. Between Andrew Susac, Hector Sanchez, and Tommy Joseph, it would be a coup if just one of them developed into the kind of hitter or player that forced the Giants into some kind of a decision. It's more likely that one will be a perfectly capable second fiddle -- talented enough to start 40 games at catcher for a good team, but without enough trade value to consider making a deal -- and that's the bulk of the value they'll get. That's not lame Giants-fan cynicism; that's just prospect reality. Individually, I like all three prospects quite a bit.

It might seem like a cruel twist that the Giants are awash in interesting catchers at the same time one of their brightest young stars is a catcher. Posey should be a catcher -- at least for a majority of the time -- for the next five years, at least. I'll cut anyone who says differently. Yet instead of majors-ready shortstops breeding like tribbles, the Giants have a collection of catchers who should show up in the next few years. Curse you, fates!

But in another way, I'm thrilled. Just thrilled. A lesson I (and I think several readers here) learned after the Madison Bumgarner draft is that you can never have enough pitching. That's a stupid cliche, of course, but you can literally never have enough pitching. Literally! Like, if you had so much pitching that the pitchers covered the Earth and ate all the crops, you could just eat some of the pitchers for sustenance. You can literally never have enough pitching!

The Mauer and Posey situations slapped me to my senses in the same way. The Twins had a good-to-great catching prospect. They also had a franchise catcher. They traded the catching prospect for a reliever with a year-plus left on his contract, which always a hilariously inept way to make a deal. Like that Javier Lopez trade that totally blew up in the Giants' face! But if we were ticked at losing Bowker and Martinez, Ramos was a far, far better trade chip at the time, and he went for something comparable. Just awful.

Point is: you can never have enough catching. Jason Kendall was one of the best offensive catchers in history until he wasn't. Same goes for Mauer. I don't think that I'll underestimate Posey until he gives me a reason to, but it's always worth noting that a job title of "catcher" on a business card carries the same connotations as a job title of "nude badger wrassler." It's a job that comes with certain dangers. Nude badgers are pissy little things.

In the next five years, the Giants should know if one or more of Sansuseph are quality major leaguers, and if they'll need to figure something out. They'll know of one of their bats is so productive that it would play at another position, like Pablo Sandoval, or if their value has to do with them catching. There might be position switches or trades. There might be a hole in the top-ten list where prospects used to be. Maybe the Giants will play one of them out of position for years before trading him for a latter-day Ray Sadecki. Sky's the limit, folks.

Until there's a decision to be made, though, I just want to acknowledge briefly that it's kind of cool to have an organization stocked with interesting catching prospects, even if it doesn't appear that's where the Giants need depth right now. It's an unevenly distributed farm system that's in the bottom half of most organizational rankings, but if they had to be top-heavy at one position, I'd prefer that it's with starting pitchers. And if that's not possible, then I'd prefer that it's with catchers, even with Posey around.

Prospect-watching is always one of the most underrated parts about baseball starting up again. At this time next year, I hope there are a lot more debates about what to do with all these catchers.

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