Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Let me start by saying this isn’t going to be your typical list of the Starter, the Back-Up and the Best Prospect(s). The Organizational Depth Charts that Bernie D’Amato and I are going to write in the days leading up to Spring Training are our view of where the organization stands right now. If the Starter was to go down and there were no Free Agents available, who would step in. If that guy went down, then who would step in. The prospects that are listed may not be the best prospects that we have but, they are the most Major League ready. To qualify at a position, the player must have played there for at least 40 games last season. Injuries do not matter here because this is the “in a perfect world, where every Padre and their mother isn’t on the DL” depth charts. Now that the rules have been established, let’s start with the Catchers.
#1 – Yasmani Grandal (2013 – MLB: .216/.352/.341, 1 HR, 9 RBI – .990 Fld%, 7.92 Rf/G, 8% CS% – 26 Games)
Despite what Nick Hundley might think, Yasmani Grandal is the Padres number one Catcher. Remember, this list does not care about injuries. So, forget the fact that Grandal missed almost all of 2013 with a steroid suspension and knee surgery that could keep him out for the start of 2014. After a great end to the 2012 season, Grandal was penciled in as the 2013 starter prior to being suspended for 50 games. He struggled in the short time that he was in the lineup, prior to his knee injury after a collision with the Nationals’ Anthony Rendon. The team knows that Hundley is not the answer long term. The job is Grandal’s as long as he is healthy enough to get on the field, hopefully in May.
#2 – Nick Hundley (2013 – MLB: .233/.290/.389, 13 HR, 44 RBI – .988 Fld%, 7.07 Rf/G, 26% CS% – 112 Games)
Hundley did an outstanding job filling in last year for Grandal. He put up career power numbers at the plate and had decent numbers behind it as well. That being said, his batting average is great for a back up Catcher, not for your franchise backstop. Hopefully he has another great month or two filling in for Grandal before he comes back. If Grandal was not able to come back for some reason, the Padres should be confident enough in a Hundley/Rivera platoon to not feel the need to sign a Free Agent Catcher prior to the arrival of Austin Hedges.
#3 – Rene Rivera (2013 – MLB: .254/.268/.328, 0 HR, 7 RBI – 1.000 Fld%, 9.43 Rf/G, 56% CS% – 21 Games)
Rivera is an outstanding backup Catcher. His numbers at AAA Tucson were phenomenal last season prior to his call up when Grandal went down. In 74 games Rivera had a slash of .343/.382/.474 while playing very good defense and throwing out 46% of base runners. Rivera will more than likely start the season with the Padres until Grandal is ready to come back. He should finish the season at AAA El Paso and hopefully for the Chihuahuas he will play just as well as he did last year.
#4 – Austin Hedges (2013 – Hi-A: .270/.343/.425, 4 HR, 30 RBI – .979 Fld%, 8.28 Rf/G, 37% CS% – 61 Games)
In about two years, Yasmani Grandal’s knee injury could be looked at as a blessing in disguise for the Padres. If the injury doesn’t move him to the field full time, it will at least move him there part of the time. At the beginning of the season in 2016, which would be Grandal’s first season of Arbitration, Hedges will probably become the starting Catcher. During the Arizona Fall League of this year, Padres Manager Bud Black said “He’s getting really close just to, mechanically, catching in the big leagues” when asked about Hedges. With a Catcher, it is often times handling the pitching staff and throwing out base runners that gets you to the big leagues. Hedges has all of this and more.
His batting stats in his 20 games at AA San Antonio at the end of last season were less than impressive. However, his .224/.297/.269 is made slightly more impressive by the fact that he put up these numbers at 20 years old. Add in his Arizona Fall League numbers (.273/.333/.400 in 15 games) and you can see why the Padres are excited by not only his defense but his bat as well. In our scenario here, Hedges would be fourth in line to start for the Padres if there were no free agents to be signed. Hedges’ defense would secure the spot for him but, his bat would not leave anyone disappointed.
(Editor’s Note 1-5-13: Cody Decker has been invited to ML Spring Training and will report with Catchers. Last season was the first one that Decker has played Catcher in the Padres Minor Leagues. In 10 games with AAA Tucson, Decker had a 1.000 Fld%, 26 put-outs in 27 chances and 2 passed balls while allowing one stolen base in one attempt. Decker’s real strength is with the bat where he continues to post good numbers in the Padres’ Minor Leagues. Last season Decker slashed .279/.349/.534 with 17 HR and 64 RBI with AAA Tucson. If Decker had enough games to qualify at Catcher, he would come in at #5 on this list. I may even rate him above Hedges and Rivera because of his bat, but his defense could hold him back until he improves through experience behind the plate at the top level.)
#5 – Rodney Daal (2013 – A: .271/.317/.424, 8 HR, 39 RBI – .971 Fld%, 7.52 Rf/G, 23% CS%)
There were several options here for the fifth Catcher spot. Dane Phillips and Robert Kral had similar batting numbers to Rodney Daal but defense made the difference. Defense is not the calling card for any of the three young Catchers but, Daal was the best of the three. Not one to be left out, the Dutch Catcher had Tommy John surgery in mid-November and will miss a similar amount of time as Yasmani Grandal. Prior to his injury, things were really coming together for Daal. He is still only 19 so, there is still plenty of time for him to regain form.
As usual, this list is entirely up for debate. In fact, it is encouraged. Feel free to post in the comments below. Stay tuned for the rest of the Depth Chart coming up very soon.