Futures Game recap: Plenty of good catchers to watch
Mat Gamel's offensive outburst this season has gotten everyone's attention, but there was actually a player in Sunday's Futures Game with a higher slugging percentage than Gamel -- and he plays at a higher level.
Jamie D'Antona is hitting .375 with 15 homers, 61 RBIs and a .616 slugging percentage for the Diamondbacks' Triple-A club at Tucson this season. The Brewers' Gamel is slugging .612 for Double-A Huntsville. Tucson has a slightly better hitters' park than Huntsville, but that's still an impressive number. I've been getting a few questions about D'Antona lately because of the numbers he has been putting up, and even though his stats stand up well in comparison to Gamel's, the stats don't tell the whole story.
D'Antona was once considered a part of a trio of offensive prospects known as the "Three Amigos" when he was drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft, moments after first-round picks Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin. The first two are obviously doing well for themselves, but the 26-year-old D'Antona has yet to see a big league at-bat.
The Diamondbacks are struggling offensively, so why hasn't D'Antona drawn more attention, especially after he hit .308 with 43 doubles and 13 homers at Triple-A last season? Well, a few of those reasons were in full evidence Sunday.
D'Antona has two impressive things about him from a scouting perspective -- big, raw power and a 70 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale -- but the rest is a big question mark.
D'Antona has played the outfield, the corner infield slots and, because of his arm, has even been tried as a catcher. He just lacks the athleticism and the footwork to play the field well, even though he is now back at third base regularly at Triple-A. Fittingly, he was the designated hitter in the Futures Game.
His raw power would be a big asset if it were thought that he could actually hit big league fastballs consistently. His swing is long, he gets pull-happy, and he's vulnerable to fastballs on the inner half.
His at-bats in the Futures Game illustrated these problems. His first time up, he couldn't get his bat around on a 94 mph fastball and struck out. He tried to cheat on the fastball his second time up and fell victim to a slider. He was then late on the fastball in his third at-bat but still juiced a fly ball to deep right field, showing some of the raw pop. Finally, he popped up in his fourth at-bat trying to overswing on a curve.
Considering what the Diamondbacks have as "power" sources on their bench these days, and considering he can't be that much worse than Mark Reynolds as far as defense, it's surprising he hasn't at least gotten a chance to sit on the bench and see if he could run into a few balls.
Fantasy owners are always on the lookout for catchers with offensive potential, considering the relative scarcity of players at the position, and there were a few of them on display Sunday.
Neither Jarrod Saltalamacchia nor Max Ramirez is hitting in the short term, and both might not stay behind the plate defensively in the long term. Teagarden has the skills to stay behind the plate -- he threw out two base stealers in the Futures Game -- so fantasy owners can take advantage of his power and patience at the plate while he remains at catcher. Offensively, he ranks behind only Matt Wieters in the minor leagues among backstops.
• Lou Marson of the Phillies also has the arm and receiving skills to stay at the position, and he's hitting .321 with a .442 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts at Double-A. Marson has only four homers and not a lot of doubles, and the lack of loft in his swing suggests that power is always going to be elusive, but I'd say he ranks third among catching prospects in the minors right now.
• Bryan Anderson of the Cardinals is like Marson; he can hit .300 in the big leagues, and that's useful at the catcher spot in fantasy, even if it won't come with a lot of pop. The real question is whether or not he has the skills defensively to stay there, considering he doesn't have the bat to play another position. He's holding up well as a 21-year-old at Triple-A, so that's encouraging.
• Pablo Sandoval of the Giants and Jesus Montero of the Yankees are further away, but both are intriguing. Sandoval, who played first base in the Futures Game and has also played third base as a pro, has good hand-eye coordination, raw pop and plate coverage. His bat stays in the zone a long time, and he can use the whole field. However, his weight has been an issue in the past and could be a problem in the future if it hinders his catch-and-throw skills.
Montero is an 18-year-old who was signed out of Venezuela in 2006, and he's holding up well in his first exposure to full-season ball, hitting .300 and slugging .447 in the Single-A South Atlantic League. He has the raw pop and bat speed to eventually do some damage in the big leagues. However, at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, his chances of staying behind the plate are about as likely as me winning a Pulitzer Prize. I think he'll wind up at first base.
• The best fantasy prospect at the Futures Game among hitters was Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates. Though he will need a trade or two to open up big league time for him this season, I'm starting to come around on his power potential, and he should have that power/speed combination that's always in high demand in fantasy. He could be a 20-homer, 30-steal player if he relaxes and lets it come naturally, instead of pressing at times.
I'll follow up with more from the Futures Game in my "Minor Achievements" column Wednesday.
Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.
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