Prospect Profile: Craig Ansman

Being a Triple-A catcher means always being one pulled muscle away from the big leagues, but with the emergence of Chris Snyder and last season's trade for Koyie Hill, Craig Ansman, a Pacific Coast League all star last year with the Tucson Sidewinders, is in a make-or-break point in his career. Managing Editor James Renwick breaks down Ansman's chances.

Vital Statistics:

Name Craig Ansman
Position Catcher
Age 26
Height 6'3"
Weight 222
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders (Pacific Coast League)

In 2000, when he was first signed as an intriguing non-drafted free agent out of Stony Brook College in New York Ansman was looked at as a project.  He's got incredible power in his awkward looking swing, a swing that's been refined, but still will never be described as 'fluid' and hits some of the longest most majestic homers in the minors.  Now five years later many think Ansman has gone farther than his tools should have taken him, but he will start '05 in Triple-A Tuscon for the second straight season.  He's been an All-Star the last three years (one each in the Hi-A California League, Double-A Texas League, and Triple-A Pacific Coast League) and continues to put up numbers, but the fact that he was left unprotected before the Rule V draft and no team jumped on him might be a sign that he finally has maxed out. 

'04 Club At Bats Avg HR RBI Slugging %
Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders (Pacific Coast League) 342 .251 19 58 .480
Minor League Career Numbers (Five Seasons) 1394 .297 76 260 .547

Batting and Power:  Ansman is a massive guy, big and strong and able to crush pitches he can get to.  In 2003 he was off to an incredible year, hitting .323 with 15 homers in just 63 games, but back problems cut his year short.  The injuries had become a trend with Ansman and some felt that was ultimately was holding him back (no pun intended), but he rebounded in 2004, and playing in more than 100 games managed just a .251 average and 19 round trippers.  His strikeout totals are alarming (117 Ks in 342 at bats in '04) and are certainly a product of his unusual swing, but at 26 years old it is probably a little late in the game for Ansman to make radical swing adjustments.

Still, Ansman's manager at Tucson is looking forward to the return of his starting catcher, "He's one of the strongest players I've ever been around.  Physically he can swing the bat, it's a little unorthodox, but he's so strong even when he looks bad he can hit the ball out of the ballpark."

Base running and Speed:  Not swift, but not embarrassing for a catcher, Ansman's bigger issue running the bases is the toll it takes on his body.

Defense: Ansman's worked hard on his defense, but will never be above average.  He's managed to get his release times down to acceptable levels, but he still has only an average arm.  Hale also thinks his size has hurt him behind the plate.

"Because he's so big I think flexibility becomes a problem for Craig," Hale says.  "Last year he stayed off the disabled list, but I think he was still dinged up and that caused him to struggle a little.  I'm not sure you'd see it in his numbers, which tells you something about the kid.  I mean, he was still an All-Star last year, even with him being hurt."

ETA: Ansman has clearly been passed in the organization by both Koyie Hill and Chris Snyder, who are on the 40-man roster and figure to compete for the starting job with the Diamondbacks.  If the D'Backs elect to keep only one of those two youngsters on the roster it could be a major set back for Ansman, since the loser would likely become the starter in Tucson.  At 26 Ansman's time should be now, and a demotion to Double-A might be the end of the line.  On the flip side if either Snyder or Hill struggled and Ansman came out of the gates hot he would be a likely candidate for a promotion.

"You'll never find a better team guy," Hale says of Ansman, "he just comes to work everyday, he's always improving, and he's always got the right attitude."

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