With the recent news that the Cardinals outrighted Matt Pagnozzi and made him a minor league free agent and AZ’s article about the place of Bryan Anderson on the big club, it seems like as good of a time as ever to look at the catcher depth and depth chart in the minor leagues. Assuming that Bryan Anderson makes the Cardinals as the left-handed, slick hitting backup catcher, that leaves us with an interesting group.
The candidates for Memphis are Steven Hill and Tony Cruz. Neither is a “pure” catcher and both are known for their hitting. Cruz has been very productive so far in the Arizona Fall League and Hill got a few call ups to St. Louis. Both have valid claims to the starting job in Memphis and they will probably end up splitting time at catcher with the other at DH. Should be interesting to see how it shakes out over the season.
Around the Springfield level, we have another group of guys. Charles Cutler is a high OBP catcher who ended last season on the DL and is down in Columbia getting at-bats this winter. Luis De La Cruz is an organizational catcher who will go anywhere he is assigned, playing at 3 different levels last season. De La Cruz has failed to make much impact with his bat, which could be a result of his wanderings or his lack of punch with his bat could have turned him into the Wanderer. Nick Derba is another light-hitting catcher, with a career OBP under 650, he may be headed back to Palm Beach or a backup somewhere else. Springfield is the big question for catching this season with a gap between the youngest guns and Cruz and Hill.
Cody Stanley and Robert Stock both have the credentials to be promoted to Palm Beach after both ending up in Quad Cities last year. Stock has had a full season and could be following Shelby Miller if he moves up to Palm Beach. Cody Stanley was just drafted in the 4th round and made it to Quad Cities in his first partial season. Stanley may stay in Quad Cities for at least the beginning of 2011. However, there is another name in the mix at Quad Cities: Audry Perez. Perez has been getting a lot of buzz around the organization this season and offseason and should be moved to his first full season minor league squad this season. That leaves two teams, Quad Cities and Palm Beach and three potential starting catchers. My guess is that Robert Stock starts in Quad Cities with one of the minor league catcher farmhands like Roberto Espinoza or Ivan Castro. Espinoza ended last season on QC and Castro was the 3rd catcher in Palm Beach at the end of the year. Next, Stanley and Perez should split time at catcher in Quad Cities since neither has played a full minor league season yet in their careers. Depending on how each
The Cardinals have two interesting hit-first catcher prospects in Cruz and Hill ticketed for Memphis this season and a gap at Springfield before the higher profile prospects like Perez, Stock and Stanley are at Palm Beach and Quad Cities. With this gap, this season could represent a big opportunity for Charles Cutler to prove himself at Springfield. Tony Cruz and Steven Hill are very interesting catchers to have on the cusp of St. Louis, especially with Cruz’s success in the prospect finishing school in the Arizona Fall League and Hill’s appearances in St. Louis. The Cardinals are also in the enviable position that they have multiple high upside catchers in the low minors. As we have seen with Bryan Anderson, a lot can go wrong between potential and arrival in the major leagues. But, with 3 potential young catchers, the Cardinals do not have all their proverbial eggs in one basket or even two.