What to expect in 2013: Catchers

Traditionally Top 30 season begins with the Reader Top 30 right after New Years, to prime us for discussing the system as a whole, we are going to take a walk through the positional groups in the system.  The goal is to look at where they rank with regards to each other, how they profile going forward, and how they fit into the system as a whole.  I will try to post one of these every couple of days starting with Catchers, and then proceeding through the other positional groups (Corner Infield, Middle Infield, Corner Outfield, Center Field, RH Starting Pitchers, LH Starting Pitchers, and Relievers).  I am not James, nor am I a scout so I will be focusing on initiating the discussion rather than creating the narrative.

Additionally this will focus on “prospects” avoiding players who are organizational filler or minor league free agents.  If I have missed someone you think deserves to be on this list let me know and they will be added.

To start, if you have not read it all already, here is gregg’s positional recap of catchers.

Going into 2012 catcher was a relatively weak group in the system, but the trade acquisitions of Gabriel Lino and Tommy Joseph and the continued success of Cameron Rupp, catcher can be considered one of the strengths of the Phillies system.  There are plenty of interesting prospects in the low minors but there are some log jams at the top.  The big question is where all of the catchers will play and how many of them will still be in the system.

Sebastion Valle (22): Valle ended the year in AAA after starting in AA, he held his own but he still has not corrected problems with his contact ability and plate discipline.  Valle is a good defensive catcher and has the ability to be above average behind the plate.  He has plus raw power but he has not been able to consistently tap into it.

Tommy Joseph (21): Joseph was acquired from the Giants at the deadline.   Joseph has plus to plus plus power and a good approach at the plate but he can struggle to make consistent contact.  Joseph has made huge improvements behind the plate where he has a plus arm, he still struggles to block balls in the dirt.  Joseph did not perform well in the AFL with illness slowing him down, with a slight bounce back at the end of the season.

Cameron Rupp (24):  Rupp was a 3rd round pick in 2010, he has moved up a level a year with small improvements each year.  Rupp may not have any plus tools, but he has no true weaknesses.  For a player who can stick behind the plate that is profile that could be a borderline regular or above average back up even if there are no improvements.  Rupp ended in Clearwater, and will need to move up a level so it remains to be seen how he fits with Joseph and Valle.

Gabriel Lino (19): Lino was acquired from Baltimore along with Kyle Simon in exchange for Jim Thome.  Lino like Joseph and Valle has plus power and a really good arm behind the plate.  Lino has well above average approach at the plate for his age, but he struggles too make good contact when he swings.  Behind the plate Lino has the tools to be very good but eh struggles with footwork and blocking balls in the dirt.  Lino is only 19 so another year in Low-A would not hurt his development if the ABs are there.

Josh Ludy (22): An 8th round pick in 2012 Ludy was assigned directly to Lakewood,  he hit very well in his limited action.  The tools profile as a back up catcher, and he will likely advance to Clearwater next year.

Logan Moore (22):  Moore, a 9th round pick in 2011, has drawn rave reviews for his defense.  However, his bat was not good in 2011 in his time split between Lakewood and Williamsport.  If Moore never hits he could have a long career as a minor league catcher, if he is able to put together anything at the plate he could be a major league back up on defense alone.  He could be pushed to Clearwater if the Phillies have given up on his offense as there may be a hole there if Lino is held back.

Chace Numata (20): Numata was very raw when the Phillies took him in the 14th round in 2010.  His hitting improved over the course of the year but he was not spectacular.  Numata will likely have to have a big year in 2013 in order to stay in the organization.

Willians Astudillo (21):  Astudillo surprised with the numbers he achieved in the GCL.  However, what makes him successful will not be sustainable at higher levels,.  Astudillo puts everything in play and he does not draw walks or strike out.  If he keeps up his good contact skills while being more selective against better pitchers he could be a very good prospect.  2013 will be a large test of how his skills translate.

Deivi Grullon (16):  Grullon was one of the Phillies big money Latin America signings.  Grullon profiles as a defense first catcher, with a plus arm that is improving and an advanced ability to block pitches in the dirt.  Grullon has shown gap power but his swing can get long.  Physically Grullon is a Carlos Ruiz clone, Ruiz was a low money middle infield signing who blossomed late in his career so Grullon will have to take a different path.

Some Questions Facing this Group:

Where will everyone play?

Is Valle, Joseph, or Rupp the Phillies catcher of the future?

Will any of the raw catchers in the low minors break out as a top catching prospect going forward?

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

68 thoughts on “What to expect in 2013: Catchers

  1. Thanks as always for doing this. One suggestion for future reviews would be including the ages as Gregg did in his year end write-up.

  2. There’s a logjam at the top of the system with catchers. I really have no idea what the team plans to do if they keep all three of the top guys, but if I had to guess I’d say Rupp is the one to lose the most playing time behind the plate, backing up whichever of the younger catchers starts in AA. I think Ludy starts in Clearwater and Lino repeats Lakewood.

    1. I think RAJ is trying to go after free agents but if a trade is made one of these catchers is very likely to go but…..

      All stay – AAA Joseph, AA Valle, A Rupp
      Joseph traded – AAA Valle, AA Rupp
      Valle traded – AAA Joseph, AA Rupp
      Rupp traded – AAA Joseph, AA Valle

      1. If not traded, Valle and Joseph will both be in AAA, probably splitting time behind the plate and getting AB’s in other places in the line-up when not catching. Rupp will do the bulk of the catching at AA . However, I believe that Valle is going to be shopped around as part of a deal to get the 3B or OF help needed at the ML level.

        1. If nobody is traded, I think Valle starts in AAA with some AAAA catcher as his backup and Joseph and Rupp share the duties plus DH at Reading, until about AS game when Joseph moves up to AAA. Having watched Joseph at Reading, he strikes me as a guy who could use more time in AA. Also, I think the Phillies will want a AAAA defensive-type catcher at Allentown to be the backup to Valle and major league injury replacement. I don’t think they want either Valle or Joseph to be the first guy up in case of injury, if that injury happens early in the season.

          1. Alll are valid points I agree with, nicley stated, If I had to guess though, I still Valle will be traded.

          2. Looks like the AAAA guy is Humberto Quintero. Better than the Sardine, I guess.

            I agree with basically everything you wrote. I think chances are very, very low that one of those 2 top guys isn’t traded in the next 2 weeks.

      2. I don’t think there’s any reason to have Rupp repeating a level he already succeeded at, especially since he’s already 24. I think its better for him to get regular at-bats in AA and catch occasionally than to be back in Clearwater.

        1. True, in reality, Rupp has improved a lot, not a little, each year. His hitting n the 2nd half of both seasons has been very good and the reports are that he has improved his defense as well. I can tell you this, he’s a big strong dude….

    2. They have three catchers for two levels and those are the levels that provide major league injury backups. That really isn’t a serious backlog, considering the DH and the rate at which catchers get dinged up. The good news is that this may save some of the prospects having to play, when they are dinged up enought to fall into bad habits. The bad news — I don’t think there really is a down-side to this. If everyone stays healthy, you can deal a catcher at the trade deadline. They’ll all get enough AB and innings behind the plate to develop and show their stuff. I would hate to think the Phillies see the three catchers as a ‘problem’ that must be solved. To trade someone to solve the problem, as opposed to needing to trade them as part of a great deal, would be stupid. All these guys have holes in their game and are still developing. Way too easy to discard the wrong guy. Also, the competition for playing time can push them all to never be complacent.

      1. Well said. I do not know which of these guys will develop and maybe none do. Keep them all around until they find out or a get a great offer.

  3. Not that I’ve been following our system for more than a couple decades, but I can never recall C being our deepest position. You really hope one of these guy will pan out.

  4. Organizational depth chart, and where I would place each catcher to start year:

    1. Joseph: AAA (Lehigh)
    2. Valle: Trade
    3. Grullon: GCL
    4. Lino: A (Lakewood)
    5. Rupp: AA (Reading)
    6. Numata: A (Lakewood, backup until Lino hits his way to Clearwater)
    7. Ludy: A+ (Clearwater)
    8. Moore: Extended Spring
    9. Austidillo: Extended Spring, then NYP if they don’t draft college catcher

    1. I agree with this list. I have the least faith in Valle and i am curious what his trade value is around the league. I would prefer keeping joseph over valle and could see a joseph/rupp battery in a few years.

    2. I think Grullon is too high because he as yet to face professional pitching, I would have him behind Lino and Rupp. I would also personally put Rupp over Lino because I think Rupp has a much higher floor, Lino has plenty of upside but he may never leave A ball.

      1. This is how I had some of the catchers (didn’t do all of them) ranked during the season at one point:

        Joseph
        Valle
        Rupp
        Lino
        Ludy
        Moore

        I guess I might slip Grullon under Lino and if we’re ranking Numata and Astudillo I’d have them probably both under Moore although I don’t really feel all that strongly about it

      2. I am not as quick to dismiss an unknown quantity. What Grullon has or has not done against professional pitching is only part of the equation. Similar situation: Shane Watson will be (and should be) rated higher than Austin Hyatt, in the organization, even though he barely pitched.
        The Phillies saw enough to give a 575K bonus to a Latin teenager. That speaks volumes about where the Phillies rate him. Rupp is an older player, who has progressed, but hasn’t been anything spectacular.

        1. Except your basing your opinion solely on the fact that the Phillies shelled out big $ for him. A lot of guys in that position have come to nothing. Trusting the Phillies scouts, I’ll bet Grullon does well defensively, but I’ve seen nothing in what the scouts or anyone else says that suggest this guy can hit. We’ve had lots of far more expensive toolsy draft busts over the years and plenty of high-bonus defense-oriented LA signings who never amounted to anything. Tons of SS of the future, of whom Galves is by far the best and still no sure thing with the bat, even at this stage in his development. I think we’ve just waved a final farewell to Valenzuela. If you’re expecting spectacular from Grullon, you’re betting against long odds. His bonus is only about twice Rupp’s anyway. Grullon was signed as an interesting gamble, far from a sure thing.

          1. Grullon was ranked this summer as the 15th or 16th LA free agent by Jon MAyo and MLB.com. And our other LA signee was the other.

        2. I just think Lino is the same kind of raw project but he is in Low-A and Rupp’s ceiling is just that good. I am willing to be a little late on a LA signing knowing that he is so far away. Catchers develop so slowly that Grullon could be 7-8 years away and not be behind developmentally.

        3. There was a pretty good discussion in Gregg’s catcher wrap-up on Lino V Grullion. I came out of it unmoved, but thinking about it now, I am convinced to put Grullon ahead of Lino.

          Joseph
          Valle
          Rupp
          Gruillon
          Lino
          Ludy
          etc.

  5. All three top catching prospects have weaknesses that will keep them in the minors for the time being. Valle should stay in AAA and work on his approach to the plate. By becoming more selective he can use that power we have seen from him. Joseph should stay in AA. He did not have a good year at the plate and needs to refine his batting eye to make more and better contact. Defensively both are good enough with an edge to Joseph. Rupp has had two straight seasons of woeful hitting from April to June. Why not keep him in A+ to see if he can start better. Ludy has to be moved to A+ so that they can see if Lino can figure out what he is doing. Ludy is very good and can step in if Rupp starts badly. I’d like to see Astudillo move up to Lakewood and play other positions along with back-up catching. His hit tool comes along rarely. Put Moore and Hill and Stumpo any where they are needed. I still think Valle should be at AAA with the pitching staff.

  6. I agree with this post. If Upton goes to Atlanta, I think Valle is part of trade to get outfielder. Joseph catches full-time at LHV and back up is a Lerud type

      1. Greinke is getting 6 yrs, $150M, and nobody thinks he can handle east coast pressure, there is no scenario where he ends up in philly

          1. It’s not pressure, it’s anxiety. He has a documented case of social anxiety, which is a very real thing. Now can he perform in front of sellout crowds every fifth day? Certainly. But if he has a rough outing, you know he will he boos, and a lot of them. I don’t think it will ruin his career as a whole, but his anxiety problems would probably cause him to unravel more and/or faster when he’s having a bad day than, say, Lee or Hamels, Would I sign him? Absolutely. But anxiety is a real issue to consider.

          1. I live in la and have lived in Philly, there is zero comparison. Only team in LA that gets anywhere near the pressure the Phils get is the lakers.

            1. If I were a player, I’d be more worried about gang violence than pressure playing as a Dodger (which is not to say I’d be worried about it all that much, just saying that would be on my mind before pressure). Philly fans are brutal, though, which either means players love playing here or hate playing here.

            2. The fans are the ones with the most pressure in LA. If you root for another team, they kill you in the parking lot. In Philly, we just burn your car

      2. Greinke is a FA signing that will enable the Phils to regain elite status and retain it for several years even if Halladay doesn’t bounce back.

        The Phils have other holes to fill, but without a big move like Greinke, the team probably will be able to compete for a WC slot, but not more.

  7. I really like Rupp. .345 OBP, .157 ISO in Clearwater is pretty nice. I think he has a good chance of reaching his upside of a guy like Todd Pratt

    1. The organization seems to like him, too. Joe Jordan had high praise for him in a recent issue of BA. He was quoted saying something like Rupp didn’t just put himself on the map with his 2012 season, he put himself in the middle of the conversation about which prospect is the Phils’ catcher of the future.

  8. I think you’ve kind of oversold Joseph’s skill level, I don’t know how many scouts you’d find that would agree that he has ‘plus plus’ power or arm strength- that really needs to be reserved for an elite talent.

  9. Joseph seems to have excited the FO. As the #2 prospect of the Giants, he was the center -piece of the deal. Yet at Reading he was anything but outstanding. The FO may be uncertain about his hitting (see “contact”) though power shows occasionally. Because of this uncertainty, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them delay any decision about trading any of them until they can make a better choice based on further evidence.

    Though Rupp is two steps away, his developing skills behind the plate at the same time that his offense keeps coming on makes him, IMO, the most bet of them to reach MLB. We know that Valle has a personal distaste for bases on balls…together with some long ball power…yet compromised by a low OBA…and his defense is now probably no better than Rupp’s (who has had college ball experience–better calling pitches?). MY view is that they need to hold on to Rupp, and if a trade is made, include Valle, not Joseph who should show more.

    A great improvement in the catching department…allowing drafting to go elsewhere.

  10. Valle = AAA
    Joseph = AA, splits time at 1B to get regular AB’s
    Rupp = AA

    Has Joseph’s overall trade value gone up, down, or stayed the same since coming to reading? He improved there over richmond a bit, then the flu addled AFL. Where is Valle’s value in comparison?

    1. Joseph is significantly more valuable than Valle. He has great catching tools, decent plate discipline, plus power and is said to have fine leadership skills. Valle has great physical ability too, but his plate discipline is so bad that, right now, he at best profiles as a back-up, whereas Joseph profiles as a likely starter. Valle is a C+ prospect and that ranking is unlikely to change, whereas Joseph is a B+ prospect with the possibility of growing into an A-/A prospect. To me, they are not close right now. Now, if for some reason Valle develops his plate discipline, things could change quite a bit, but I don’t see that happening.

  11. Its funny that there is all this Joseph love and bashing of Valle when they have almost identical plate discipline. Joseph has a BB rate of 6.01% compared to Valles 5.87%, Joseph’s K rate is 21.19% compared to Valle’s 21.22%.

    Not much of a difference really…

    1. Because in 2012 Valle’s BB% was around 3% and Joseph’s was over 7%. Joseph’s BB rate has risen every year as he faces better competition, Valle’s has declined every year. In 2012 as well Valle’s K% was much higher than Joseph, you can’t look at career numbers in the developmental path, look at the trends that develop as they face better competition.

      1. Would add that looking solely at numbers for any minor leaguer is a mistake since each player is being asked to work on different things in their games. A pitcher may be working on fastball command, a hitter might be trying to change hand positions, etc.

        That’s why scouting reports and watching how the organization handles the player is a better indication on how a player is viewed within the system. Numbers in the minors are secondary.

        Also why there’s no chance Joseph splits time behind the plate with Valle or Rupp. Top prospects play everyday and by most accounts, Joseph is a top prospect in the Phillies system.

      2. Matt you know I love you but despite a positive trend your body of work is still your body of work and 7% is 1 point above his baseline and we’re talking about a statisically valid baseline IMO at 1400+ PA’s.

        My point is not to defend Valle he is heading in the wrong direction but to suggest Joseph is or it might be better to say to give Joseph a pass is spinning. None of his offensive categories is anything to get overly hyped about.

  12. A quandary, IMO. I don’t agree Valle should or will be traded. His value is not that high. He is more valuable to Phils as a guy who could get better than a throw-in on a trade, then watch another org straighten him out on plate discipline. Also agree Rupp needs to show what he can do at AA, has put in his time at A+. Phils need to see how his power translates in a park and conditions more similar to their own. So that leaves three guys getting time at two positions at AA/AAA. I think that can be managed via 1B, DH, C. No need to wear these guys down anyway.

    1. There are 288 games available at C in two levels. That means an avg of 92 games at C for each guy, 52 games for each guy as 1B/DH/PH. However, Joseph should get far more than that as the frontrunner for C of the future. He should get around 120, IMO. Tell Valle that the number of games he catches wil depend on how well he advances as a hitter with a major-league-level approach.

      1. I think at this point you can just tell Valle that Joseph needs to work on defense more than he does. Valle is already a MLB starter in terms of defense, so what the organization wants from him is work for his bat.

        1. Same for Rupp I think, if they stick with Valle in AAA, and Joseph and Rupp in AA. The Phils think Rupp is the best defensive catcher in the system, and even though it seems like Joseph’s defense is better than advertised when he was acquired, he’s probably got the most to work on there.

    2. What if…….in a trade proposal the oither club does actually want Valle as part of the package, and the end return of the trade benefits both clubs. I assume you have to make the move.

      1. Well, everyone is tradable, and you always get a better return when the demand is higher. But my point is that Valle is not extremely desirable right now, so no team is going to give a significant asset for him. He has more value developing with us. Another team desiring him is just a hypothetical now. His current profile does not indicate that that is likely. Maybe some team with no catching prospects. But they will try to get him for marginal talent, IMO. Now if someone offered a significant 3B prospect, I’d be interested, but minor leaguer trades to correct asset imbalances are rare. The reason? Teams see their own prospects differently than other teams.

        1. Colorado’s rookie catcher last year hit a ton but was absolutely awful behind the plate. My guess is a package with Valle and Martin or May gets us Cuddyer (plus some money to help pay for him) who, with Tyler Colvin’s emergence, looks very expensive for them. Cuddyer in LF with Upton in CF would look pretty good to me.

        2. DiaDerby…normally I would agree, but MLB.com has Valle ranked as the 8th best catcher in the minors. Of course, they have Tommy Joseph the 7th ranked. So he still is highly thought of in some circles in spite of his shortcomings .

  13. I actually don’t see this “logjam” as that much of a problem. Especially for the guys with upside, I don’t know that we want to wear them down by making them play catcher every night anyway. Let Joseph spend the year at Reading splitting time with Rupp, who I see as more of a backup type anyway, and work on his hitting without having to worry about crouching and managing the the pitchers and so on every night. Same deal with Valle and whatever Kratz-type they sign to be their third-string catcher next year.

  14. Matt, Way to start with possibly the most interesting position in the organization.

    I cannot predict a trade and agree that I do not want to ‘sell low’ on Valle. He is still quite young for a Catcher with impressive tools and one glaring flaw.
    I think Valle and Joseph play at AAA. Valle is the immediate callup if Ruiz or Kratz are out. I would have Valle in Spring Training getting reps and then have him handle more than 50% of the catching duties at LHV.
    Joseph does have some positiion flexibility (1B) and both can DH. I doubt LHV gets another 1B other than Overbeck, who could be DFA’d if Fields ends up with reps at 1B due to another 3B minor league acquisition. I would want both Valle and Joseph to work with the ‘Baby Aces’ of only Pettibone and May remain at AAA.

    Rupp continues to move up and starts at Reading. Lerud will be his back up in AA and depending on Valle’s status, would be the next callup. (No need to add 40-man roster time to Joseph or Rupp at this point.) Rupp seems to be profiling as he was drafted: decent defensively, with possible power upside. He is an excellent guy to have ‘in the wings’. He will need to be added to 40-man after this year. Then he could be the guy to shuttle between AAA and the majors for the next 3 seasons.

    I’d promote Lino to A+ with Ludy. I still am not impressed by Lino but by advancing he remains young for his level which makes him an attractive commodity even if he does not hit. Ludy is probably an organizational catcher and could be a good influence on Lino.

    I’d have Moore as the primary in LWD with Astudillo his backup and positional floater. Astudillo would have (as any prospect would) tremendously more value if he could remain at Catcher. I’d like to challenge him to do that. Even better is that Moore is very good defensively. Maybe it will rub off on Astudillo.

    I am not as high on Numata so I’d start him in Extended Spring then to WPT or LWD. When the pieces start to move, I could see Ludy moving to up to AA but that would be a large promotion in his first full professional season. I do not think Lino needs tons of reps, as he is still very developmental. Maybe spending some time watching with the coaching staff would be helpful. If Lino struggles badly, then I could see a swap with Moore.

    Grullon in GCL with possibly another drafted HS C. College C in WPT or Numata/Astudillo depending on how the season goes.

    1. Second that. I think they should have resigned Werth even at that crazy price. Can’t believe I just said that but it is looking more and more that way.

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