Friday, October 13, 2006

Catching Down on the Farm

Over the next few weeks, the Daily Lancer team will be doing an in-depth analysis of the Royals' minor league talent at each position. We'll let you know where the Royals' best depth and talent lies and how soon the Royals' prospects will make an impact on the big league club.

We begin with probably the weakest position in the farm system, catching. John Buck's lackluster performance over the past two seasons has made the catching position an increasing concern. Buck finished the season with an OPS of .702, a slight 26 point improvement over 2005. He's a solid defender behind the plate, which helps compensate for his weakness at the plate. He's the catcher of the future because the Royals simply don't have any better options in the minors.

Near the Majors: We begin our look at the minors with Paul Phillips and Matt Tupman. Paul Phillips has already seen some big league action, with 137 career at-bats and an unimpressive .270/.279/.380 line. He's walked just once in 137 at-bats, contributing to his low OPS. Matt Tupman's plate discipline is much better, with drawing 56 walks to just 33 strikeouts this season. However, his lack of power(SLG %.334) will keep him from becoming more than a backup. Both players are in their upper 20s, appear to be no more than AAAA players and backup catchers.

A/AA: Adam Donachie highlights the A/AA list. Donachie's prowess is his defense behind the plate, which is very good. His weakness is his bat. He struggled after being promoted to Wichita, with a .633 OPS. His home/road splits at Wichita also showed a strong home bias, with an OPS 148 points higher at home. Donachie is still young (22 years old), particularly for a catcher. So, his bat may improve considerably over the next few seasons.

The Royals drafted 3 college catchers in the 2005 draft, Kiel Thibault, Jeffrey Howell, and Brady Everett. All three did well in rookie ball, but only Thibault continued his success into this season. Thibault hit very well (.340/.398/.485 line) at High Desert, but struggled in the less hitter-friendly Midwest League.

I looked through the Rookie Leagues, but didn't find any prospects worth noting. Overall, catcher is a significant weakness in the organization. The Royals could use a good left-handed bat to counter Buck's weakness against righties. The Royals don't have any catching prospects who project as major league regulars, so the Royals will need to improve their depth in the upcoming draft and with any offseason moves.

Depth: D-
Impact Talent: F

Up next: Third Basemen (i.e. Alex Gordon)


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