Houston Astros: 2017 Catcher Hunt

Houston Astros: 2017 Catcher Hunt

It doesn’t take a baseball expert to take notice to the fact that Jason Castro is not a wizard at the plate. In today’s era, most teams are starting to opt for the defensive catcher over the offensive catcher. Jason Castro perfectly fits the bill of a defensive catcher, and one could say he’s among one of the best catcher’s in the game. But in a league that is seeing a downfall in productive catchers, those words of high praise have hollow tendencies. Nevertheless, with Castro set to become a Free Agent following the conclusion of the 2016 season, if the Astros think they have a better option, they could let Castro walk. If that is the case, here are some of the options the Astros could explore.

Tyler Heineman
Selected in the 8th round of the 2012 Draft, Heineman has seen his ups and downs but remains in consideration for a future position opening due to being well above average behind the plate, and not too shabby with the bat either. While some fans are spoiled by the Bregmans and Reeds that tear up AAA, Heineman has put up some respectable numbers. In 2016, he is batting .276/.362/.380, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 7 2B, and 53 H in 60 games. He could be in the Majors soon if a team desires another backup catching options, but remains on the short list for Houston if Castro dons another uniform in 2017.

Garrett Stubbs
Something about 8th round catchers gets the Astros going, as the Astros picked up Stubbs in the 8th round as well, just 3 years after Heineman in 2015. Stubbs has been a very quick riser in the MiLB, and has actually put up eye-opening numbers in just the 2-ish years he’s been in the MiLB, currently residing in AA. In 2016, he’s played in 2 different levels and across both has hit .295/.389/.444 with 8 HR, 48 RBI, 17 2B, 36 BB, 48 K, and, get this, 11 SB in 73 games total. Stubbs is viewed by some in the Astros system to be the “Catcher of the Future” for Houston should they decide to keep building from within. He will stick behind the plate because unlike most catcher now-a-days, he can get it done both at the plate and in the field, throwing out 52% of would-be base stealers. He could see time in Houston in 2017, but the front office might want him to see ample time in AAA before getting him up.

Evan Gattis
The Astros attempted to take Gattis, who came up the system as a Catcher for the Braves and has since been a full-time DH, and convert him back into a catcher. The project has so far been successful, as Gattis has seen a lot of time behind the plate when Castro takes a day off. Gattis, statistically speaking, is better hitting at the plate when he’s defensively behind it as opposed to DH-ing, keeping his mind into the game instead of allowing his mind to wander in the dugout. As a catcher he hits .287/.325/.652 with 11 HR, 23 RBI, 9 2B, and 25 K in 115 ABs as opposed to .189/.269/.320 with 6 HR, 20 RBI, 5 2B, 17 BB, and 60 Ks in 175 ABs as a DH. He’s above average behind the plate as well, throwing out 48% of potential base-robbers and proving to be fearless when going down to block an errant throw. Would these numbers translate well if Gattis were given the full time catching job? That’s the big question.

Sign a Catcher in Free Agency
The Catching Market is not a very deep one, as only a few quality options are available. Coming off a career year, Wilson Ramos is due a huge pay raise, and the chances are the Nationals will attempt to resign him so he might not even get to test the market. Matt Wieters has had some great seasons in the past, showing a lot of potential as a hitter so he could be an option as well. After those two, the market is very thin. Nick Hundley and Drew Butera could see some consideration by a few teams, but probably won’t be viewed as an upgrade from Castro, so Free Agency at this point is a question mark.

Trade for a Catcher
It is unknown which teams would be willing to trade their catchers during the offseason as catchers are some of the more valuable players on the diamond. With players like Buster Posey and Salvador Pérez deemed untouchable, and for good reason, and Jonathan Lucroy‘s recent trade to the Rangers takes the biggest catcher on the trade block off of the market. However, there are still some catchers of interest that could gain some attention. Wilson Rosario of the Rockies has been consistent in the 5 years he’s been with Colorado and with Catching Prospect Tom Murphy ready for his call-up to the Rockies, the clubs can afford to deal him. Who’s to say he couldn’t be a part of a bigger deal that could also net the Astros Carlos Gonzalez?

Another name is Derek Norris from the Padres. Norris is having a brutal down year, but his track record suggests that this year could be one of the fluke variety. If anything, his price becomes cheaper with the year he’s had. J.T Realmuto is another option from the Marlins, but they probably aren’t looking to shop the young catcher, but he’s definitely worth asking about

Outlook
There’s a good chance Houston would want to sign Castro to an extension, but if it were up to me, I would keep an eye on Ramos. If he resigns with Washington, then I think it would be best to hand the job to Evan Gattis until Garrett Stubbs is ready, hopefully in 2017, and ease Stubbs into the starting catching role should Gattis put up numbers that would warrant a change. Gattis has had a good year when he’s been penciled in as the starting catcher. If this is a sign of things to come, Gattis has proved he can handle the starting catching role.

Things can change between now and October. But with some better alternatives to Castro, every option should be explored to find an upgrade to Castro’s bat. He’s great behind the plate, but a liability in at the plate. Should Houston find an option that is good both offensively and defensively, we could very well being seeing the Jason Castro Era come to an end in Houston in the near future.

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**Photo Credit: Getty Images**

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