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Minor League Catching Options

The Mariners could use some catching depth with the departure of Kenji Johjima, but at a cheap price. It makes sense to go with Adam Moore and Rob Johnson in 2010, leaving whomever is signed to spend the majority of the year in AAA. Hence, the best fit might be a minor league free agent. Here are some of the better options:

  • Orlando Mercado - Orlando will be just 25 years old when the 2010 season starts, so he still has some upside. He hasn't played above AA yet, and he has extremely limited power. However, he has a good eye at the plate, and his short stature lends itself nicely to sitting low behind the plate (something pitchers generally prefer).
  • Steve Torrealba - The lesser-known brother of current Rockies (and former M's) catcher Yorvit Torrealba has some big league experience, and has hit well in limited opportunities the past few years in the minors. He will be 32 years old when the season starts, so he is at an age where catchers are prone to trailing off considerably. However, the experience and flashes of productivity the past few years are worth a look in spring training.
  • Mike Rabelo - This is a bit of a stretch. Rabelo missed almost all of last season, and is now 30 years old with only a couple cups of coffee in the majors. However, big league experience is still big league experience, he is also a switch-hitter, and he has shown a little bit of pop in the past.
  • Neil Wilson - Wilson, like Rabelo, didn't play much last year. However, he has shown some power at every level, and is still relatively young at 26 years old. In lower levels he split time between catcher and DH. I'm not sure if that's a commentary on his bat or his defense.
  • J.R. House - His 2009 campaign was bad, and at 30 years old it may be a sign that he's done for. However, if House returns to his 2008 form, he's worth picking up. Somebody should send him an invitation to spring training.
  • Gabriel Gutierrez - Gabriel has bounced around between leagues the last few years, showing little flashes here and there. He is only 26 years old, and with a few flashes, he might be worth a closer look. Consistent playing time for more than a month in one place might let him develop into a decent backstop.
  • Rene Rivera - Yes, this is the same Rivera that's easy to forget from the pre-Johjima years. The Mariners rushed Rene to the majors and derailed his development. However, he has started to find a power stroke (though with tons of Ks), and he is still pretty young at 26 years old. At 5'10", 230 pounds, Rivera is short and stalky, which in my opinion is the ideal build for a catcher.
The reality is that all these catching options have noticeable flaws. The most complete backstop of the bunch is probably Torrealba. However, this is a hunt for a third-string catcher, and these are minor league free agents for a reason. However, what is nice about these players is that it should only take a minor league contract to get these guys in the organization. If I were Jack Z, I'd try to sign a whole bunch of these guys, like maybe five or six of them. Throw a handful of them against the roster, and see who sticks. Whatever minor league free agents lack in quality, they sort of make up for in quantity.