Top 10 Indians MiLB Catchers for 2018: I Can Haase Prospectz?

Top 10 Indians MiLB Catchers for 2018: I Can Haase Prospectz?

Indians

Top 10 Indians MiLB Catchers for 2018: I Can Haase Prospectz?

Starting off the minor league positions rankings for 2018 are then men behind the plate. As with all of Burning River Baseball’s MiLB rankings, only prospects with no MLB experience are considered meaning that the obvious #1, Francisco Mejia, will be absent. Instead, the focus is on those players who may be more unknown to the average fan and are still working on their progression to the big leagues.

10. Michael Rivera – Age: 22 – Unranked in 2017
Drafted 2017, 6th Round
A Lake County

By Joseph Coblitz
Rivera had a rough start to his minor league career while playing 15 games with Mahoning Valley, but he was bumped to Lake County to start the 2018 season. Out of University of Florida, Rivera is a fine defender, but it is yet to be seen if he can hit at a level where he won’t be a detriment. At 22, he’s already a little old for A ball, but he still has a higher ceiling than most of the catchers from Lake County down within the system.

Jerez skies one during a 2017 AZL Indians game. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

9. Miguel Jerez – Age: 20 – Unranked in 2017
2016 International Free Agent
Extended Spring Training

By Joseph Coblitz
While there is no evidence in his official stats, I’ve had the benefit of watching Jerez in quite a few unofficial games and he has promise. His greatest aspect to this point appears to be his power, however, it may not be as impressive if he is moved off position. At the moment, he may be slated for the outfield in Mahoning Valley once their season starts as the dearth of new catchers (three drafted and signed in each 2016 and 2017 along with new international signings) will likely push him from behind the plate.

8. Yainer Diaz – Age: 19 – Unranked in 2017
2017 International Free Agent
Extended Spring Training

By Joseph Coblitz
As an 18 year old in the DSL last year, Diaz had impressive offensive and defensive numbers, a rarity on a club that was otherwise unimpressive. Because there is such a high disparity between the good and bad in the Dominican Summer League it’s impossible to know how well these will translate in the US. He will likely be on one of the two AZL teams this year, however, so we’ll finally get a chance to see him in person.

Loopstok walks out of the batting cage during 2017 Indians MiLB spring training. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

7. Sicnarf Loopstok – Age: 24 – 2017 Catcher Rank #6
Drafted 2013, 13th Round
AA Akron

By Pete Conti
Loopstok emigrated to the United States from Aruba back in 2013. He was drafted by the Indians from Western Oklahoma State College via scholarship. The Tribe drafted him in the thirteenth round and was described by Indians amateur scout Brad Grant as “really good throw-catch skills with a developing bat.”

Since that time Loopstok has been spending his playing time between Lynchburg and Columbus and has struggled at the dish. He has thirty four plate appearances in 268 games and a measly three hits in all three minor league levels for the Tribe.

Vicente hits during a 2016 AZL Indians game. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

6. Jose Vicente – Age: 22 – 2017 First Base Rank: #5
2013 International Free Agent
A Lake County

By Joseph Coblitz
One of the more difficult players to classify, Vicente was ranked among first basemen last year, but is now expected to catch primarily for the Captains with Ulysses Cantu playing first.

Part of the issue in categorizing Vicente is that he isn’t particularly good defensively at either position and, while he isn’t useless at the plate, he doesn’t stand out either. He has a little power, decent plate discipline (something that does set him apart from many of his contemporaries) and reaches base somewhat consistently.

Rolette looks on as Indians MiLB catchers go through drills during 2018 spring training. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

5. Josh Rolette – Age: 21 – Unranked in 2017
Drafted 2017, 39th Round
Extended Spring Training

By Joseph Coblitz
Rolette missed most of his first season with the Tribe due to injury, but looked solid in his five game rookie season. With little actual game action to go off, during spring practices he appeared to be one of the better defenders among the Indians minor catchers. Of the three catchers signed from the 2017, he may have the most upside although with the late start in 2017, he is the most likely to remain in Arizona for a second season.

Salters during 2016 MiLB spring training. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

4. Daniel Salters – Age: 25 – 2017 Catcher Rank: #4
Drafted 2015, 13th Round
AA Akron

By Pete Conti
Salters has been mostly contact hitter, so power is not really in the forecast for this upcoming season. His ability to put the ball in play has dipped in terms of productive numbers, but it is expected that they will rise this year with more plate appearances.

Salters will likely spend the year in AA with the possibility of being promoted to AAA in the second half depending on how productive his at bats are for Lynchburg. While it is remains to be seen if he ever makes it to the major leagues, it is best for him to develop his skills in the minors as his window for success at a higher level does not seem to be in his future.

Chu works out behind the plate during 2018 MiLB spring training in Goodyear, AZ. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

3. Li-Jen Chu – Age: 24 – 2017 Catcher Rank: #3
2012 International Free Agent
A+ Lynchburg Hillcats

By Joseph Coblitz
Chu lost a year to Tommy John surgery, and had a season that could be potentially overvalued in 2016 as he demolished A level pitchers that averaged two years younger. Now, he will look to see if he can continue his power numbers against more age appropriate competition in Lynchburg.

Chu was originally an interesting signing as he was the catcher for the 2014 AZL Indians that featured fellow Taiwanese born players Ping-Hsueh Chen and Shao Ching-Chiang on the pitching staff and Yu-Cheng Chang in the field. His injury left him behind the rest of the class, however, and the pitchers have been able to successfully work beyond any language barriers without their countryman behind the plate.

Ice hits during a 2018 MiLB spring training game. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball

2. Logan Ice – Age: 22 – 2017 Catcher Rank: #2
Drafted 2016, 2nd Round
A+ Lynchburg

By Joseph Coblitz
The Indians drafted six catchers in 2016 and signed three, but only Ice remains as a full time catcher (Gavin Collins has mostly played 3B, Michael Tinsley, OF). He improved greatly from Mahoning Valley to Lake County and advanced to his third level in his third season. Unlike many Indians MiLB catchers, Ice’s value is almost all with the bat rather than with the glove.

There isn’t a ton of MLB upside within #2-#10 on this list, but Ice has the advantage of being young enough that the Indians can’t give up on him yet and being advanced enough that we know he won’t flame out before low A.

Haase works out with minor league pitchers during 2016 Spring Training. – Joseph Coblitz, BurningRiverBaseball.com

1. Eric Haase – Age: 25 – 2017 Catcher Rank: #5
Drafted 2011, 7th Round
AAA Columbus

By Joseph Coblitz
A poster boy for the launch angle/fly ball revolution, Haase went from 43 home runs in his first five seasons combined (322 games) to 27 in 2017 in 93 games. He has been overshadowed in recent seasons by the abrupt rise of Francisco Mejia, but just because Mejia looks to have the makings of a superstar doesn’t mean we should look beyond Haase, who should at least be a Major League back-up.

Haase’s best value may come from his work behind the plate rather than his power. Last year he caught a personal best 37% of base stealers and he is known to call a good game. With Mejia known mostly for his offense (although he also has a great arm), this could potentially open up a chance for Haase to have a future with the Indians. Haase should be considered MLB ready right now, but sits behind Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez and Mejia and since his ceiling is very possibly similar to Perez’s ability right now, there is no reason for the Indians to take a risk on an untested player. Ultimately, with Haase and Mejia both on the 40 man (and thus burning options) and Gomes signed through 2019 (with options through 2021) with Perez signed through 2020 (options through 2022) someone will have to be traded within the next two seasons. With so much expected of Mejia and invested into Gomes and Perez, there is a good chance Haase is the odd man out.

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