Monday, February 20, 2006

Tigers Spring Training Preview - The Catchers

There is no positional battle at the catching spot this spring. Everybody knows that Ivan Rodriguez is the starter and that Vance Wilson is the backup. One question concerning Rodriguez is whether he will regain some of the production which he failed to show in 2005 but that’s something that can’t really be answered until the regular season.

A bigger question is what happens if Pudge goes down for a significant period of time with an injury? Although Wilson is not usually as bad as he showed last year, I would not want to see him start for any length of time. What other options are there?

The first option would probably be Maxim St. Pierre. Max has the coolest name and is also the most advanced of the five non-roster invitees. Assistant General Manager, Al Avila, recently said that St. Pierre is the best defenseive prospect in the Tigers system and that he may be ready for the majors soon. He batted .278/.320/.369 at the age of 26 in his fourth year at Erie. This is pretty much the same stat line he puts up every year and at this point I wouldn’t expect much improvement. He looks to be a backup catcher option only.

Another one who could be re-called if anything were to happen to Rodriguez is Brian Peterson. Peterson, who spent the last 4 years in AA Chattanooga in the Reds organization seems to be a Max St.Pierre clone. Like St. Pierre, Peterson looks like a backup catcher at best. He’ll likely share the catching duties at Toledo with St. Pierre but I would expect St. Pierre to get the most at bats.

They do have a couple of catchers lower in the system who are a bit more intriguing even though they wouldn’t be ready this year. The best hitting prospect is Danilo Sanchez. He is 25 years old and has never played above A ball but he put up some impressive numbers at Lakeland last year: .284/.361/.524 with 22 home runs in 349 at bats. If he hits as well for Erie this year, he’ll become an interesting prospect.

Chris Robinson, the third round pick in the 2005 draft, is considered by many to be the best all around catching prospect in the system. The report on him is that he is a good defensive catcher who needs to work on his offensive game Right now he doesn’t project to be more than an average hitting catcher but he is just 21 and has time to improve. He’ll catch for Lakeland this year.

The other catcher in camp is Mike Rabelo. Rabelo is another fringe prospect who will likely backup Sanchez at Erie this year. He hits for pretty good average but doesn’t appear to have any other good skills.

So the answer to the question posed above is that the Tigers don’t have a legitimate replacement for Rodriguez this year and any significant injury to him would create a tough problem for the team.


  1. On the positive side, Vance has got to play better this year, so you can probably count on at least a teensy upgrade from him. I'm not sure it's possible for him to hit worse.

    And Peterson can't be a MaxClone. Is he an adorable Quebecois? No.

  2. If Pudge goes down to the 15-day list or more, I believe you'll see Inge catching at least half the games. Infante is no Charlie Gehringer, but he is a better hitter than Wilson.

  3. It might be a little tough for Inge to go back to catching after not catching for a while but I agree that would be a strong possibility.

  4. Sam, Peterson is the cheap American version of St. Pierre.

  5. If second-half Inge returns this year, I wouldn't be at all suprised to see him banished back behind the plate for 2007 (bye-bye Vance). I'd actually welcome it.

    Of course, then we'd have a hole at third, but at least our system isn't totally barren over there. (Kirkland, Ramirez, Hollimon, Middleton, even Kelly and Hannahan). Don Kelly and Infante platooning for a year wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

  6. I wouldn't mind seeing Inge as the back up catcher but I'd also want him to play other positions. His greatest value as a player is his versatility.



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