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Royals State of the Farm: Catchers

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Meaty backstops

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

So we begin the meat of the series in the hamburger metaphor of the article series. We had the top bun, the introduction and now we move down to the meat. When it comes to meat, catchers might be the best example (maybe first basemen). The Royals have at least two meaty catchers in the system (Vallot and Villoria) and they are probably the two best catchers.

Not that the Royals particularly need catchers in their system given their current catcher Salvador Perez, but a) depth is always good and b) Perez could lose his left arm at any given moment (Ned Yost would still play him for 155 games).

AAA

Parker Morin - 24 years old, .184/.255/.239 33 wRC+

Morin has been in the system for a while and he's done exactly what he did this year every year: not hit. His best season at a level with 200 PA was a 79 wRC+ in Rookie Ball. He had a 130 wRC+ in AA last year (after repeating the level) so it seems like KC thought maybe for a second they might have had a cromulent backup, but he hit the wall harder than ever. He's a decent enough backstop and has throw out ~33% of runners for his career but that's his most likely role; a defensive first fringe backup catcher.

AA

Cam Gallagher - 23 years old, .259/.348/.359 107 wRC+

Gallagher has been around longer than Morin. He was a 2nd round pick back in 2011 where he was ranked as the 64th best prospect in the draft. It arguably doesn't matter where he was ranked because he's a prep catcher and it feels like historically there hasn't been a difference between how a first round prep catcher and a 40th round prep catcher has developed.

When you look at him you don't really see a guy who can stick behind the plate but he's a pretty solid defender despite his size and has a really strong arm. His ability at the plate never really improved despite a decent approach and good bat-to-ball skills.

Zane Evans - 24 years old, .226/.262/.333 69 wRC+

A few years back I was actually kind of high on Evans. He was a good hitter at Georgia Tech (he got Matt Wieters lite comps - a former GIT catcher too) and wasn't like a late round pick (4th round). He had damn good raw power and a great arm but he wasn't likely to ever be a full time catcher. Unfortunately Evans never developed consistency. He takes a big hack often trying to access that power but is overly aggressive. His defense hasn't gotten in better either so he hits like a fringe catcher but can't catch. That means his only shot at the majors is a C/1B split if he wants to be a hitter.

I say "if he wants to be a hitter" because Evans also pitched at Georgia Tech as a closer. He could probably shake off some rust, throw a low-to-mid 90's fastball and bring back his power slider if he wanted to be a reliever.

A+

Luis Villegas - 23 years old, 276/.325/.436 109 wRC+

The Royals signed Villegas for cheap back in 2009 out of Venezuela as a 16 year old and he's probably one of the most tenured guys in the organization. He has an okay arm and isn't great defensively. He has a very nice approach at the plate with excellent walk rates throughout his career. He isn't a well built guy and his level swing keeps the power down overall.

If he was 20 years old then he's interesting, but not particularly at 23.

Chad Johnson - .224/.330/.331 89 wRC+

Johnson had a nice pro debut in 2012 but that was really the extent of his success. Like Chase Vallot below he is passively aggressive. He'll take his walks when pitchers pitch him outside and work counts but he still showed an affinity for strikeouts too. He was a big boy with some power but not that great a defender from my experience with him.

The Royals just released Johnson but I wanted to include him one last time. Thanks Chad.

A-Ball

Chase Vallot - 19 years old, .246/.367/.463 140 wRC+

Vallot is easily the best catcher in the system and I'm not sure it's close. Viloria will get some love but the Royals best future catcher is right here.

Vallot played in just 92 games this year (due to separate face and back injuries) but hit 15 home runs still. There aren't many teenagers who hit 10+ home runs in A-Ball (Vallot did it last year too as an 18 year old) and the power is real. He'll strike out but his power should keep pitchers weary enough for him to walk as well. He's my dude (I ranked him the Royals #1 prospect last winter). I realize the risk in prep catchers but I think at worst he's a backup catcher (and yes...the Royals system is that thin).

Xavier Fernandez - 20 years old, .259/.320/.387 104 wRC+

Fernandez is just a year older than Vallot and he's hit well his whole career. A lot of it has been BABIP dependent as he puts the ball in play often but hasn't really accessed the power in game despite his size. He's a thicker bodied guy but is athletic and can probably stick behind the plate.

His age, tools, and results keep him on the prospect map but he's not jumping off the page. He was one of the youngest draftees in his class.

Adv. Rookie

Meibrys Viloria -  19 years old, .376/.436/.606 159 wRC+

I don't think I got more questions about any other Royals prospect this year than Viloria. In 2015 I don't think anybody in the public sphere was in on Viloria like I was and ranked him 22nd overall in the system was back when. I probably bought into struggles that came after that ranking as I dropped him down into the 30's. He rewarded my lack of faith by hitting the cover off the ball in the Pioneer League on his way to MVP.

I remain cautious though and I'll go further into my reasons in my official rankings.

Nick Dini -  22 years old, .319/.365/.362 98 wRC+

I put Dini in my top 50 this past winter because he was a solid catcher with a decent enough bat. He struggled with injuries this year spending most of the season on the DL.

I still like him as a backup catcher and somebody threw an Austin Barnes comp on him.

Low Rookie

Yordany Salva - 19 years old, .313/.450/.563 180 wRC+

Salva instantly made my ears pop up a bit when I looked more into him a month or two ago. I loved him size and he hit very well in his pro debut. He was just drafted this past june and the only thing stopping him from being some on the Royals low minors radar...the Royals released him in July. Yes, they drafted him in June and cut him in July. Signed June 15th, released July 18th. Zero idea why and I can't figure it out. It sounds like an off field issue as his results weren't bad and they certainly would have at least given him more than 6 games.

Especially after this:

Vallot is the only catcher of real impact in the system and he's 20, injured, and hasn't made it past A-Ball. Thankfully they are set at the position for likely the next 3-4 years so they have time to wait on one of these guys to hopefully develop.