The final weeks leading up to Spring Training are some of the most exciting of the year. Sort of like the lead-up to the holidays, the anticipation builds with every passing day, a beacon to the summer days ahead when baseball once again fills our days and nights. For a select few Toronto Blue Jays prospects, the anticipation is also at hand.
On Wednesday, the Blue Jays announced that they had extended spring training invitations to the a number of players, including Gregory Infante, Jack Murphy, Derrick Chung, Dwight Smith, Roberto Osuna, Anthony Alford, Miguel Castro, Sean Ochinko, and Mitch Nay.
So what do we know about each of these Blue Jays prospects that will get a look this spring? Let’s discuss the catchers.
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The first thing you’ll notice is that the Blue Jays are bringing an additional three catchers to camp, and they’ll get looks alongside Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro, and Josh Thole. This is a fairly common practice in the spring, as it allows the team some flexibility for split squad games, and gives some of the younger guys some time with experience backstops to learn the ropes. With a teacher like Russell Martin in camp this spring, these guys have to be a little bit excited.
Jack Murphy is a bit of a folk legend in terms of Blue Jays minor-leaguers go. While he owns a pedestrian .230/.310/.373 slash over 1251 minor league at-bats, Murphy has made quite the name for himself in the Australian Baseball League. As a member of the Canberra Cavalry each of the last three seasons, Murphy has become a hero down under, with a career .321/.380/.473 batting line, 13 home runs and 88 RBI in 123 games in Australia. He added to that legend with a .353, 6 home runs, and 37 RBI showing for the Cavalry in 2014.
That said, Murphy is no longer a true prospect at 27-years-old, but he’s become a dependable receiver over his 6 seasons in the Blue Jays system. He’ll likely to return to Triple-A Buffalo and back-up A.J. Jimenez to start the season.
Another receiver set to turn 27 this winter, Derrick Chung finds himself in a bit of a different situation. After being drafted in the 31st round of the 2012 draft, Chung has spent just three seasons in the minor leagues and he’s had to do it while being converted from an infielder into a catcher. However, the results have been spectacular, as pitchers and coaches alike have raved about Chung’s receiving and game-calling skills. He’s also shown an aptitude for throwing out would-be base-stealers as well, clipping them at a 42% rate over the course of his career.
As for the bat, Chung is no slouch at the plate either, at least from a catching perspective, owning a lifetime slash-line of .277/339/.345. He’s shown a strong eye at the plate and makes consistent contact, boasting a 58/89 BB/K mark over the course of 786 plate appearances. However, he doesn’t feature much power as he’s hit just 2 home runs in the minors, both of which came last season.
27 seems to be the going age for our catching corps, as our third catcher checks in at the mark as well. Sean Ochinko, drafted by the Blue Jays in the 11th round in 2009, is likely getting his last look from the Blue Jays. He’s split time between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo each of the last two seasons, but it’s been a struggle with the backstop failing to hit above .243 either of the last two seasons.
Of course, some of the issues with production for Ochinko have been a combination of both moving to the higher levels and also being on the field. At the end of the 2013 season, Ochinko received a 50-game suspension from minor league baseball after testing positive for amphetamine usage.
Of this group, I could see Chung possibly getting a September call-up. However with A.J. Jimenez already ahead of him on the depth charts and the trio of Martin, Thole, and Navarro clogging up the works in the majors, his chances of seeing much time in Toronto this season are fairly limited.