Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali are essentially locks for the Cincinnati Reds roster, but is there a chance the team carries three catchers into the season?
The Cincinnati Reds, surprisingly, have a plethora of catchers in Goodyear, Arizona during Spring Training. Tucker Barnhart and Curt Casali are virtual locks to be on the roster in 2019, but could the Reds surprise some people and take three catchers into the season? It’s actually a very real possibility.
The Reds were unable to land J.T. Realmuto, much to the dismay of some fans. But, the majority of Reds Country seems happy to have Tucker Barnhart on the team entering Spring Training and by all accounts he’ll be the primary backstop for the Reds this coming season.
Curt Casali, who came up big on several different occasions during the 2018 season, appears to be all set to be Barnhart’s backup next season. Casali signed a one-year deal worth $950K before Spring Training began and he’s likely to be behind the plate, one would assume, at least once a week once the season gets underway.
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But, would the Cincinnati Reds have a need to carry three catchers into the 2019 season? On the surface it seems kind of silly, but if you dig a little deeper, the idea isn’t as farfetched as you might think. The Reds have seven options, believe it or not, entering Spring Training and there’s a real chance that three catchers could be on the roster when the Reds leave Arizona.
Barnhart and Casali are shoe-ins, so let’s take them off the board. Who are the other five players? Well, you’ve got non-roster invitees Tyler Stephenson, Juan Graterol, and Chris Okey, as well as Connor Joe and Kyle Farmer.
For argument’s sake, let’s throw Stephenson out of the mix. He’s yet to play beyond Advanced-A and is at least a couple years away from the big leagues. Okey, the No. 23 prospect in the Reds farm system, has yet to advance to Triple-A, so we’ll leave him out of the conversation as well. However, at least two of the three remaining players have a legitimate shot to make the team.
Graterol was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds earlier this offseason. He didn’t last long but received a non-roster invite to Spring Training with the team. Graterol has a very slim chance of making the roster, and I can only see it coming to fruition if an injury occurs. He’s known much more for his defense than his offense.
The other two players, Farmer and Joe, are real considerations for the team. Kyle Farmer came to the Reds in the December 21st deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood to Cincinnati. Joe was picked up in the Rule 5 Draft at the Winter Meetings. Both Farmer and Joe offer the club versatility, as catcher is not the only position they’re suited to play.
Kyle Farmer, who’s seen time at catcher, first, and third base during his major league career, played 39 games with the Dodgers last season. He saw most of his time at third base and as a pinch hitter, but did suit up behind the plate for 2 innings last year. Farmer slashed .235/.312/.324 in the big leagues, but has performed well in the minors, earning trips to minor league All-Star Games in 2014, 2015, and 2016 at varying levels.
Connor Joe, whom most fans are not yet familiar with, might be the most likely player to grab a roster spot as the third catcher. The 26-year-old right-hander offers a lot of flexibility to the roster. Joe can catch, play both corner infield spots, and both corner outfield spots. Having a player like that, especially in the National League, is a huge bonus. It’s highly unlikely that Joe would garner any starts, but as a late-inning replacement, he could provide a lot of value.
Joe has spent his entire career in the minor leagues. Last year in the Dodgers organization, Joe combined to hit .299 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs in Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. His on-base percentage was a staggering .408 and his OPS was .935. For comparison’s sake, even with a smaller sample size, Nick Senzel slashed .310/.378/.509 in Triple-A and fans are doing backflips in anticipation of his arrival.
Now, am I saying Joe is as good as Senzel, absolutely not, but the numbers don’t lie and it’s obvious that Joe has some pop in his bat. A back injury early in his career cost him an entire season of development and Joe has been playing catch up ever since. Perhaps this is the year that gives him the opportunity he needs to realize the potential that saw him drafted in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
So, while it may not seem necessary, it’s very possible that the Cincinnati Reds carry three catchers into the 2019 season. While it would likely not be the primary position for either Joe or Farmer, should they make the team, it’s never a bad thing to have versatility in today’s game.