The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


The impact of an offensive catcher

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Oct 25, 2011 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

First, an admission that this comparison is far from perfect, but it’s the first thing I thought about when Mike Napoli hit that game-changing double for the Rangers last night.

When a guy can hit like that, do you think the Rangers care that minor league scouting reports said he’d never be able to catch at the big league level?

Of course I ask this question because of Jesus Montero, and of course it’s not a fair comparison because Montero is a far bigger prospect than Napoli ever was, but even so… Back in 2005 — when Napoli had just finished his fifth professional season, like Montero just did — this is what Baseball America wrote in its Napoli scouting report for the prospect handbook:

Napoli has a polished, professional hitting approach and obvious power. He has natural loft in his swing and drives the ball well from center to the opposite field… The biggest question surrounding Napoli is whether he’ll be able to catch at higher levels. His catch-and-throw skills are adequate, but his flexibility and footwork are poor. He doesn’t move well behind the plate — or on the bases, for that matter — and several Cal League observers didn’t think he’d be able to serve as a backup catcher in the majors.

Sounds fairly familiar, doesn’t it?

Back in 2005, Napoli was ranked as the 29th-best prospect in a loaded Angels system. He was 23 years old, had never played above Class-A ball and had just come back from a torn labrum. He was no Jesus Montero.

But Napoli also just finished a season in which he hit .320/.414/.631 and actually did a pretty nice job of throwing out base runners (36 percent caught stealing). He has four straight seasons of at least 20 home runs, and he’s played more than 114 games in only one of them. He’s a heckuva hitter, and hitters like that find a way to stay in the lineup.

If Montero hits like that — he’s been a better minor league hitter than Napoli was — how good would his defense have to be to earn a job as an everyday catcher in the big leagues? When you see a guy having an offensive impact like Napoli’s having in the World Series, it makes you forget about defensive scouting reports a little bit.

One other quick note about Napoli and the 2005 Prospect Handbook: That list of Angels prospects is/was incredibly deep. A few highlights from the Top 25:

1. Casey Kotchman; 2. Dallas McPherson; 3. Erick Aybar; 4. Jeff Mathis; 5. Kendry Morales; 6. Brandon Wood; 7. Ervin Santana; 8. Howie Kendrick; 9. Albert Callaspo; 11. Mark Trumbo; 13. Joe Saunders; 14. Sean Rodriguez; 15. Dustin Moseley; 16. Maicer Izturis; 19. Kevin Jepsen; 20. Nick Adenhart; 24. Reggie Willits

Big leaguers Alexi Casilla and Bobby Wilson were also in the Angels system at the time but couldn’t crack the Top 30, and Jered Weaver had been drafted but hadn’t signed yet, so he was Angels property without being eligible for the rankings.

Associated Press photos

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