2010 Year In Review: Cougars Hitters, P1

Our 2010 Year in Review series continues, with a move from the mound to the plate. In a three-part series, David Malamut takes a look at the hitters for the 2010 Kane County Cougars. He begins with the catchers.

2010 Kane County Cougars
Team Batting Average: .255 (9th out of 16 teams)
Team OBP: .337 (3rd)
Team OPS: 710 (9th)
HRs: 66 (13th)
Runs Scored: 669 (6th)

The Catchers

This year the Cougars had a top catching prospect in Athletics' system, 2009 4th round pick Max Stassi. He played most of the games at catcher for Kane County this year. He would be backed up for most of the year by second-year Cougars catcher Juan Nunez. Chris Affinito also played in a few games at the position.

Stassi would show some big improvement throughout the year. At the start of the year, his defense was questionable. He did not get his throws down to second very well and did not get down on the ball to block it. As the season went along, Stassi was always out there early, working on the defensive part of his game and it showed. As the season came to a close he was really starting to play very well behind the plate.

Throughout the season throwing out runners he would be 42-125 which is .336%. That is a great number considering he was something like 0 for his first 20 or so on the year. At the start of the year, almost all of the throws would be on the shortstop side of the bag, but he got a lot better.

During the year there was also a marked improvement on his blocking balls that were down or in the dirt. He still would have 10 passed balls and make 14 errors, but most of the errors were throws in the start of the year. At the end of the season he got down and blocked balls low and outside a lot better.

He was also dealing with a lot of injuries throughout the year, but battled through those and improved significantly. He would miss five games in July because of a left thumb injury and he would have minor injuries the whole year.

Hitting-wise, he struggled. Some might say the worst thing that he did this year to himself was hit two homers in early April. He struggled, but he was very beat up, and a lot of the time he was moving runners along and doing some little things to get runners into scoring position. He gave up a lot of at bats because of how beat up he was.

Then there is the strike outs; 141 strikeouts is something to worry about. At the start and towards the middle of the season he almost always started out each at bat 0-2, which is going to result in a lot of strike outs. He also is a very patient hitter, too patient, and that is one thing that led to a lot of the strikeouts. He would walk 45 times during the year.

All told, Stassi played in 110 games as a 19-year-old catcher in his first full season in pro ball, netting 465 at-bats and 94 hits. He would tie for the team lead in homers with 13 and also drive in 51 runs. He had a OPS of 690. Considering his age, position and the nature of the league, it wasn't a bad offensive performance.

Nunez played in 44 games, hitting .171 on the year with one homer and six RBI. He did get a few big hits in the games he played. His average was bad but he did some good things.

Defensively, he is a work in progress, as he doesn't block the ball down very well. He would have six passed balls and 10 errors this year and he threw out 19% of runners attempting to steal.

Affinito really didn't have that much of an opportunity to play catcher this year. He played six games behind the plate, mostly when Nunez couldn't go and Stassi was hurt. He had one big game offensively in which he hit three homers. He would also spend time with Vancouver and the A's Rookie League team in Arizona.

About the Author
David Malamut has been covering the Cougars since 1998, with his own website, (http://malamut.net). He has also written a book about the Cougars, "Baseball In Kane County Cougars" (Arcadia/2005). For daily updates on the Cougars, go to his website (http://malamut.net) or follow him on Twitter (http://twitter.com/davidmalamut) for in game news and notes.

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