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Behind the Backstop: Catcher to Stash?

Tory Hernandez

Tory's experience in the baseball industry includes a four-year stint as the Manager of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where his responsibilities were comprised of contract negotiation, advance scouting, and the development and implementation of the organization's statistical research methods and use of analytics. Most recently, Tory served as the Director of Pro Scouting & Recruiting for Boras Corporation.

This Week's Featured Callup

J.T. Realmuto is a 23-year-old catcher with the Miami Marlins. Realmuto was called up for his major league debut on June 2 following Jarrod Saltalamacchia's placement on the 7-day DL for a concussion. The 23-year-old was in Double-A Jacksonville, repeating the level where he spent his 2013 campaign. Realmuto was asked to repeat Double-A after a poor showing last year where he hit .239 with five homers in 368 at-bats.

The Oklahoma native has been more known for his catching prowess on defense, where he flashes 1.8 pop times to second base. He does have the potential though to be an average major league hitter, and his 2014 campaign appears to be a step in that direction. Prior to his callup, he was having a breakout season hitting .295/.359/.497 with five homers in just 173 at-bats. He has always made good contact, and has the ability to put the ball in play. Realmuto has a line drive stroke and has had more success when he's been able to extend his hands on pitches on the outer half of the zone. This year, however, he appears to be adjusting well to inside fastballs and has shown a propensity to drive the ball more. For someone not known for his offense, Realmuto actually has a nice, strong swing. He's very athletic and should be able to produce at least 10 stolen bases annually. He's more of a free swinger and doesn't necessarily work counts very much. He will produce low OBA's but he could ultimately be a .270 hitter in the big leagues with double digit homers and steals.

Realmuto's defense is definitely his calling card, and he will get ample opportunities to hit because of his plus defense. He has a plus arm, quick hands and feet that produce excellent pop times, and he blocks balls well. He should eventually fall into an everyday starting catching role. Expect him to be an average regular down the road.

The Marlin will probably take a while to grow into an everyday role, but he's not a bad long-term stash for those looking to add depth to their catching corps.

Featured Minor League Prospect

Christian Villanueva, CHI 3B

Villanueva has been on the prospect scene for a few years now and is probably best known for his involvement in the summer trade that sent him and Kyle Hendricks to Chicago for Ryan Dempster two years ago. The Mexican native is coming off a big weekend in the PCL having gone 4-for-11 with three extra-base hits, including one home run. For the year, he is only hitting .230 with five home runs in 183 at-bats.

There have been two camps in ultimately what evaluators believe Villanueva will become in the big leagues. He's a great defensive third baseman, but his bat hasn't quite lived up to the billing that some have believed it would. He has some pop, and in any other organization, he would be perceived as a second division regular. With Mike Olt scuffling and Luis Valbuena not the long-term answer at the hot corner, it's possible the Cubs will give Villanueva a look later this summer. He hasn't quite earned it, but the Cubs will probably want to see what he can offer at some point. Kris Bryant may beat him to the show but the Cubs may want to audition Villanueva with the parent club first.

Personally, at his best I see Villanueva as a better defensive version of Trevor Plouffe, but not much more than that. Ultimately, I think he could be a nice utility guy at the corners.


Drew Pomeranz

Chalk up another reclamation project that has found success in Oakland. The former first-round pick has found a second lease on his baseball life with the A's. The Rockies moved on from Pomeranz when they acquired another lefty in Brett Anderson, now injured, or should I say, “injured again.” Pomeranz always demonstrated strong skills in the minor leagues and when healthy, he still has a tremendous arm. Pitching in the expansive O.Co Coliseum has helped, but is there more to it?

Pomeranz has always had the ability to strike hitters out and this year he's striking out over 8.0 per nine innings. His secondary stuff has been plus and his fastball life has created a lot of groundballs, with nearly a 50% GB rate.

He's still walking too many guys and while his stuff has been good this year, I don't foresee much improvement going forward. I believe he has seen a lot of luck on his side this year, and I suspect his ERA to rise about a full run and a half, placing him into the more 3/4-type starter category, and not the frontline guy he has been so far this year. The biggest red flag for me is that he's only showing that he can get through about five innings. Part of that is the fact that he's still getting stretched out and the A's are protecting him. But, he's been very inefficient with his pitches and hasn't shown that he can become a six or seven-inning guy with the same quality production.

We've seen a couple of duds in his last two starts, granted against good offenses in Toronto and Anaheim, but I think it's the beginning of mediocrity. For me, Pomeranz is a nice a project and work in progress, but not someone I believe is going to carry a staff or even be a productive mid-rotation guy going forward. If someone buys into his numbers to this point, I would sell and sell quickly, while he's still considered a productive asset.

To Close or not to Close?

Kevin Gregg was signed by the Marlins, who also picked up Bryan Morris in a trade with the Pirates. Steve Cishek is the man in Miami though, and Gregg, while a nice backup plan, is not going to see any save chances unless Cishek gets hurt.

Ryan Cook was activated from the disabled list Tuesday, but he's not going to be closing. Sean Doolittle has done a fantastic job in his absence, and has earned the right to keep the throne in the ninth inning. At this point, I don't see Cook getting any save opportunities this year, as he's also behind Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson. Cook had a nice run in 2012, but he's strictly middle relief at this stage of his career.