The recent major league debuts of Manuel Pina and Salvador Perez have inspired me to switch gears, at least temporarily, in my minor league coverage. Instead of examining players on a team by team level, this week we’re going to look at the position of catcher across all levels of the Royals system. This involves 26 players, and by now you know that I’m a bit verbose so I will be breaking this up into multiple parts.
I believe Perez is the Royals starting catcher of the present and future, but it doesn’t hurt to keep tabs on the rest of the in-system options on the way. Salvador is going to need some days off and inevitably, given the demands of the position, he’s going to get dinged up, hurt, or concussed* in the coming years.
*Can we just make this the official Kings of Kauffman word of the year?
DSL Royals (Dominican Summer League – Rk)
Cesar Gonzalez: He’s currently hitting 0.239/.333/.268 in 142 AB but does have a solid 24-17 SO-to-BB rate. Not a bad start for a 17-year old in his first professional action. He has played more 1B (34 G) than C (13 G) and is the youngest of this Venezuelan trio. He’s also the biggest with a 6’3″ 185 lb frame.
Pedro Gonzalez: Has shown marked improvement from his 2010 performance in the DSL. Gonzalez is hitting 0.301/.403/.364 with 8 2B, 1 HR and a 22-21 SO/BB in 176 AB. He’s spent some time at 1B in addition to his catching duties. Overall slash stats are promising, but they should be since he’s 19-years old and in his 2nd season with the team. Listed at 6’2″ and 162 lbs, he needs to add some bulk to his frame.
Luis Villegas: Like Pedro, Villegas is in his 2nd DSL season and has shown improvement across across all three slash stats – though his SLG is essentially a push. He’s now hitting 0.244/.397/.311 in 164 AB. The 18-year old has essentially split time between 1B (26 G) and C (22 G) and also played at 3B for 1 game.
AZL Royals (Arizona League – Rk)
Rainier Bello: Was named the Dominican Royals Player of the Year in 2009 when he hit 0.293/.338/.337 as a 17-year old in the DSL. Bello had a very forgettable 2010 season but bounced back to hit 0.290/.343/.355 in his first 9 DSL games this season before being promoted. As a member of the AZL Royals he’s hit a solid 0.284/.326/.364 in 88 AB. His 26-7 SO to BB between his two stops this season is a bit alarming, but he appears to have handled the in-season transition to the states awfully well. Bello just turned 19 in June and remains an intriguing guy to keep tabs on.
Cameron Gallagher: The Royals 2nd round pick in this year’s draft, the fact that Cam (18) is even on the field with a dozen games under his belt is noteworthy enough. For the time being that will have to be what we cling to as he’s hitting 0.163/.192/.224 in his first 49 professional at bats. Regardless of results, the potential package of plus defense, plus power and an average hit tool as well as his high draft position will keep him in the prospect discussion for a while.
Travis Lane: Another 2011 draft pick, Lane was selected in the 41st round this June. In 117 AB he’s hitting 0.256/.351/.333 with 6 2B, 1 HR and 14 BB to go with 29 SO. He just turned 21-years old 9 days ago making him the senior statesmen of the AZL Royals catching corp. He’s adapted well and off to a nice start, but it’s going to be hard for him to separate himself and get ahead of Bello and Gallagher.
Alexander Marquez: A 2010, 29th round, pick out of Puerto Rico Marquez hit 0.141/.321/.141 in his first professional action. Unfortunately things haven’t improved much in 2011. He’s hitting just 0.138/.286/.207 in 29 AB this season. Over his first 2 seasons he has drawn 22 BB against 21 SO which is one positive. Another is the fact that he’s only 18 years old. Still, he should at least be hitting his weight (190), shouldn’t he? Barring a quick improvement he’s probably not going to be around for very long.
That rounds out the catchers on the DSL and AZL Royals. If you can’t wait a week for Part 2, don’t worry, I plan on publishing it in the next couple of days.