Catchers Should Be Strength for RailCats in 2023
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier takes a look at the depth of the Gary SouthShore RailCats catching crew this season.
They Are Usually Happy with One
If you are a fan of baseball, then you have come to recognize that the team usually has one solid, if not outstanding catcher, and another who is serviceable. The backup allows the starter to have a day or two off each week while doing a solid job of handling the pitching staff, maybe even chipping in a hit or two.
It is that fortunate team that has two solid, if not outstanding catchers that are truly blessed. It does not matter who is behind the plate for the club, as the team knows that they are going to get solid production from either one, both at and behind the plate.
This year, it looks like the Gary SouthShore RailCats have an outstanding crew that could become one of the best in the American Association. Not only do they have two solid catchers, but potentially have three as well as a first-year pro looking to make his mark for the team.
What makes this group so good is that three of the veterans can play multiple positions. This is going to give manager Lamarr Rogers a great deal of flexibility, enabling him to use three of his catchers in games if he so desires.
Thomas Greely has just one-year professional experience. He appeared in 24 games for the RailCats last season, hitting .237 with two RBI and nine runs scored. He played two seasons at Long Beach State, meaning he comes with a solid pedigree, but can do more than just catch. He appeared in one game at third base last season for the RailCats, and had five appearances on the mound for Rochester (Northwoods League) in 2018. While he will likely not be appearing in 25 games as a pitcher this season, he gives Rogers the ability to use the catcher in six or seven games when his bullpen may need some rest.
Carlos Martinez likely enters the season with the inside track on being the everyday catcher. He has eight years of minor league experience, reaching AAA for the Atlanta Braves in 2021. Martinez also has experience in Partner League Baseball, appearing for Trois-Rivieres (Frontier League) last season.
For the Aigles, Martinez hit .336 with 16 homers and 62 RBI in 70 games. Gary Southshore had a power surge last season, hitting 92 homeruns, a club record. With Martinez in the lineup and Sam Abbott returning after setting a club record with 20 home runs last season, this team is set to be even more powerful this year.
Martinez can also play first base, giving the team some additional flexibility. This allows Rogers to keep Martinez in the lineup by moving him to first base while giving him a “rest.”
Marco Hernandez has been with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization since 2016. He has never reached higher than Low-A, and his all-time batting average in six minor league seasons is a solid .261. Hernandez has appeared in 224 games, but has not played in more than 39 games in any of his last four seasons.
The injury bug has plagued the catcher, and he may not be a huge bat in the lineup. However, Hernandez is solid behind the plate, making just 19 errors in six seasons as a catcher. His real challenge will be trying to slow down opposing baserunners, as he threw out just one baserunner in 59 attempts in 2021. The number improved in 2022 (5-34), but this was primarily the reason why he did not move further up the Dodgers organization. Rogers and his staff will have their work cut out for them in helping Hernandez to improve this part of the game. He also can play first base.
An interesting addition for the team is catcher Ramces Urias, Jr. Urias was an All-Star catcher coming out of Gila Ridge High School, but played one season at Bluefield College, appearing in just five games before an injury sidelined him. He is trying to make his way back into baseball, and could be that hidden gem that becomes an invaluable roster piece for the club.
It is an interesting mix that the RailCats manager has pieced together, and one that should have a dramatic impact in helping this club to be successful. It would not be surprising to see all four make the club, but expect three to be on the team for sure. With the ability of three to play additional positions, Rogers may find that flexibility too enticing to let go of.
By Robert Pannier