Mar 13, 2013; Bradenton, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays catcher Mike Nickeas (15) tags out Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin (left) at home to end the bottom of the third inning of a spring training game at McKechnie Field. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Well Toronto Blue Jays fans, our long winter may be over very shortly, with Spring Training peeking at us on the horizon. For the Blue Jays, pitchers and catchers are due to report to Dundedin, Florida by Sunday, February 16th, with the full squads following just a few days later on the 20th.
With that in mind, it is a great time to start thinking about spring around these parts, hopefully warming (to this team) us all up a little along the way. To get us started, let’s take a look at the non-roster invitees that will invade Blue Jays camp this spring. We’ll break things down in a series of posts, starting with the pitchers and the catchers, and then finishing up with the infielders and outfielders.
As we started with the pitchers on Friday, we’ll move on to the other half of the battery in this installment, checking in with the non-roster catchers coming to camp.
The other half of the catching group that came back from the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade, Nickeas struggled at Triple-A Buffalo in 2013, “hitting” just .166 in 200 plate appearances for the Bisons. That lead to Nickeas signing back a minor league deal to rejoin the team in 2014, a contract that also included an invite to big league camp.
However, his return was likely more for the sake of depth in the upper levels than it was anything else. He received one game in Toronto last season (0 plate appearances), but things would have to shake pretty badly this season to see him up with the Blue Jays again…ever.
The 25-year-old Murphy has spent his 5-year career moving up the Blue Jays minor league ranks, finding his way to Triple-A Buffalo at the end of 2013. However, that wasn’t necessarily due to performance, but rather necessity for the club. Overall, he appeared in 59 games across two levels, hitting .220 with 3 home runs and 23 RBI.
Murphy has carved himself quite the cult following in Australia, having twice joined and been a leader of the Canberra Cavalry team in the Australian Baseball League, where he’s slashed .306/.361/.400 in 160 at-bats. Murphy will likely find his way back to Double-A to start the season in 2014, and perhaps back to Buffalo if the need arises there.
The 25-year-old Chung enjoyed a break-out season in 2013, hitting .287 in 270 plate appearances with Dunedin. That earned him a trip to the Arizona Fall League when A.J. Jimenez had to drop out. Chung jumped all over the chance, leading the Salt River Rafters with a .390 average and finishing second with a .886 OPS in 41 at-bats.
With his first full season behind the plate behind him, Chung will make his way to big league camp for this first time this spring. Depending on how things work out there, he could find himself back in Dunedin to start the season or in Double-A New Hampshire. Regardless, 2014 could be a big season for Derrick Chung, and he could turn into one to watch as the team looks for catching depth in the system.