22 February 2012
Continuing our 2012 Spring Training preview (see Starting Pitching, Bullpen), here is a look at the Catching Situation for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team has seven catchers in Big League camp, four from the 40-Man roster, and three non-roster invitees. Most likely, the team will carry just two when the season starts - Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco. Montero had a fine season offensively, and has greatly improved defensively. Blanco continued to throw well, and was the King of the Solo Homer. The third player with Major League experience is 28 year old Craig Tatum, who was claimed off waivers in the offseason.
Tatum has never hit well in the Majors (.554 OPS in 299 PA) or particularly well in the Minors (.693 OPS over 8 seasons), so he's unlikely to be anything more than a backup. Defensively, Tatum has an accurate arm, but not an exceptionally strong one. He does have a good reputation for blocking pitches in the dirt, and for his handling of pitchers. The fact that the Diamondbacks added Tatum to the roster probably indicates that they still don't trust their Minor League catchers yet.
Also from the 40-Man roster is Konrad Schmidt, who was the primary catcher for AAA Reno last year. The three non-roster invitees are Ryan Budde, Ed Easley, and Rossmel Perez. Easley was the primary catcher for AA Mobile in 2011, and Perez was the catcher for Class A Visalia.
|Konrad Schmidt, 27 (AAA)||346||47||97||9||45||21||66||.280||.330||.445|
|Ryan Budde, 32 (AAA)||218||34||51||7||30||30||73||.234||.331||.376|
|Ed Easley, 26 (AA)||289||37||79||4||37||32||51||.273||.352||.370|
|Rossmel Perez, 22 (A+)||349||44||100||3||41||49||33||.287||.373||.347|
None of these catchers are considered great prospects anymore. Schmidt has made a couple of minor league All-Star teams, but needs to show more offense than a .775 OPS in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Easley has shown very little power in the Minors, with a career .336 SLG. Budde, at age 32, has spent the last eight seasons in the PCL with a .682 OPS. Perez, age 22, has a strong throwing arm, and has more walks than strikeouts in the Minors, but also needs to show more power at the plate. He's young enough to still develop, but this will be a critical season for him.
Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco should be the two catchers who leave Spring Training with the Major League club. I expect Schmidt and Tatum to begin in AAA, while Perez and Easley work for AA Mobile. It's not clear what role Ryan Budde will have with the Diamondbacks - it wouldn't be a surprise to see him released after Spring Training.