2018 Season Preview: Catchers

As the Cardinals full arsenal of Minor Leaguers have now reported to the Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Florida we’ll spend some time the next couple of weeks looking at some players by position groups we may see in Peoria this summer. Keep in mind we have no inside information on the roster at this time and these are not predictions. Just a look at the players who played the position in 2017 at the three teams below the Chiefs: State College, Johnson City and the Gulf Coast League plus any newcomers to the organization. We will also remind you of guys that played the position in Peoria last season and how they performed.

We will start off by taking a look at the catcher position which was easily the most productive position on the field for the Chiefs for the second year in a row. Four players saw action behind the plate last season and the three who played multiple positions were far more productive when they were catching. When all was said and done the Chiefs catchers hit 25 home runs, more than at any other position last season with a team-best .286 average and a team-best .502 slugging.

In 2017 the Chiefs had four players who caught games with Brian O’Keefe leading the way at 71 games, Ryan McCarvel at 38 games, Andrew Knizner was behind the plate 26 times and Dennis Ortega caught six games in August. O’Keefe hit .278 in the games where he was the catcher with 13 home runs, 17 doubles, 35 RBI and a .485 slugging percentage. Overall he hit .260 with 15 homers, 46 RBI and 20 doubles in 97 games.

Ryan McCarvel launched nine of his 16 homers last season while catching (Allison Rhoades)

McCarvel clubbed nine home runs as the Chiefs catcher with a .532 slugging percentage and .252 average in those 38 games in which he drove in 25 runs with 20 extra-base hits. He added seven homers while playing other positions and hit .230 overall in 94 games with 21 doubles, 16 homers and 53 RBI. Knizner caught 26 times batting .333 with a .514 slugging percentage as he tallied three homers, 13 extra-base hits and 18 RBI. Knizner was the only player on this list to hit more home runs as a non-catcher (5) as he totaled eight homers with 29 RBI, 10 doubles and a .279 average in 44 total games. Catcher was the only position Ortega played in six games with a .389 average, one double and five runs scored.

In the 2017 draft the Cardinals selected four catchers overall but only two of them signed

Zach Jackson catching before the 2017 draft

Zach Jackson: Jackson was drafted in the sixth round out of high school in Winter Haven Florida. He played 14 games last season for the GCL Cardinals batting .098 with five RBI and two runs scored. A left-handed hitter, Jackson will turn 20 in May and is a native of Winter Haven, FL.

Cameron Knight: Knight was drafted in the 32nd round out of Arkansas-Little Rock and he played 28 games last season as a pro. He played 15 games with the GCL Cardinals batting .190 with two doubles and two RBI. He also played 13 games with Rookie-Ball Johnson City batting .174 with a home run, double and three RBI. Knight bats from the right-side and is a 23-year old native of Oklahoma City.

Already in the organization before last season:

· Joshua Lopez: Lopez signed with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent in 2012. Last season he played in 52 games for State College batting .285 with five homers, 11 doubles, 27 RBI and 21 runs scored. In 2016 he played 42 games for Johnson City and one for Palm Beach batting .302 with five homers, six doubles and two triples while driving in 36 runs and scoring 22. A Valencia, Venezuela native, the 22-year old is a right-handed hitter.

Alexis Wilson with Johnson City in 2017 (Brett Jacomet)

Alexis Wilson: Wilson, who goes by his middle name, signed with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent in 2014. Last season he played 30 games for Johnson City and one for State College with an overall batting average of .248. He hit two homers last year with seven doubles, 18 RBI and eight runs scored for the season. A right-handed hitter from Los Mochis, Mexico, Wilson is 21 years old.

Julio Rodriguez: Rodriguez signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2016 and played that season in the Dominican Summer League. Last year he played 47 games for Johnson City and one for Palm Beach with an overall batting average of .276. With Johnson City he hit .280 with five homers, 14 doubles, 28 runs scored and 36 RBI in 47 games. A 20-year old that bats from the right side, Rodriguez is a native of the Dominican Republic.

Next up: First Base. Thanks for reading!