Diamondbacks Prospect #49: C Frank Curreri

How does a position player who is too old for his level become a top 50 Arizona Diamondbacks prospect? By batting .323 with a .433 OBP and improving defensively at a premium position. Here is our full scouting report on Frank Curreri.

Vitals:

Name: Frank Curreri
Position: Catcher
DOB:12/04/1982
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 215 lbs
B/T: L/R

History: Frank Curreri put up outstanding offensive numbers during his time at the University of Massachusetts, but nevertheless dropped to the 41st round of the 2004 amateur draft.  Scouts did not believe that Curreri's opposite-field swing would generate much power with a wooden bat, and were concerned that he wouldn't play solid enough defense to play catcher in the majors.

Curreri's outlook deteriorated further when he injured an arm ligament fielding a popup.  He would miss the entire 2005 season with that injury.  Even after putting up quality offensive numbers with South Bend in 2006, Curreri found himself repeating Low-A ball at the age of 24 to begin the 2007 season.  Understandably, the New England native felt a little discouraged about his lack of advancement within the organization.

"I'm definitely the old man on this team," Curreri told us in April. 

But Curreri kept plugging away, even playing through a hand injury because he was afraid to come out of the lineup.  The injury hurt his power production, but his plate discipline remained excellent.  A .447 on-base percentage combined with an opening on Visalia's roster due to Justin Upton's promotion to Double-A, allowing Curreri his opportunity to advance.

Generally, a player's offensive numbers suffer when he first moves up to a new level.  Not so with Curreri.  In fact, his .330 batting average at Visalia would have been third in the California League had he enough at bats to qualify there. His hand fully healed, Curreri began to put some pop back into his swings, and played good enough defense to win a slight majority of the time at catcher from John Hester and Orlando Mercado, each excellent backstop prospects in their own right.

The promotion to Visalia was not the highlight of Curreri's 2007 season, however.  Facing elimination in the playoffs, Curreri went 3-for-4 with two homers and three RBI against the San Jose Giants to keep the Oaks alive one day more.  

Yr Team Age AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG
'03 UMass 20 112 24 38 8 2 3 27 2 1 17 16 .339 .426 .527
'04 UMass 21 158 36 60 16 0 7 54 6 2 22 16 .380 .464 .614
  Missou 21 36 8 10 2 0 0 5 0 0 5 9 .278 .349 .333
'06 S Bend 23 207 35 59 15 0 6 38 1 2 37 56 .285 .394 .444
'07 S Bend 24 82 7 25 5 1 0 10 0 4 21 20 .305 .447 .390
  Visalia 24 209 29 69 10 2 4 36 5 2 39 43 .330 .427 .455
Minor League Totals 534 79 163 32 3 10 89 6 8 102 128 .305 .412 .433

Statistics Courtesy of The Baseball Cube

Batting and Power:  Curreri also hit two homers on June 28th, meaning that four of his six 2007 home runs came in two days.  Power does not come naturally for Curreri, an opposite-field swinger.

"I'm working on hitting to all fields, but more on backspinning balls to the pull side," explained Curreri. "My swing just naturally backspins them to left and center, so I've got to be a little quick to get them to the right side, and I'm trying to get more carry out of 'em."

Curreri's a big guy.  If he can get his hands through the zone a little quicker, he should be able to hit for power more consistently without sacrificing his consistent solid contact.  Curreri won't ultimately be a .330 hitter, but he also won't be a four-homers-a-year hitter, either.

Base Running and Speed:  Don't expect Curreri to win a lot of footraces.  He's not the slowest player around, but by the time he advances to the big leagues, he'll merit consideration.  Curreri's only going to add strength to his 6-foot-4 frame.  That could be a lot to move around, and a lot of weight to crouch upon for nine innings a day.

Curreri nevertheless takes the organizational philosophy of aggressive base running to heart.  He actually attempted eleven steals in 2007, getting caught six times.  At the major league level, the Diamondbacks aren't going to give Curreri that kind of free reign on the base paths, but playing opportunistically now is good for his overall development.  

Defense:  There had always been more concerns about Curreri's defensive prowess than his stick before this year.  He has played in three-man catcher rotations the past two seasons.  Instead of worrying about playing time, Curreri has seized the opportunity to pick his teammates' brains and work with them to improve his receiving skills.  We caught him taking balls in the dirt from fellow catcher Orlando Mercado before one game.

"It's something our catching coach in spring training asked us to do before each game," explained Curreri. "It's just to get our legs going early, do some extra blocking, some footwork, some receiving, stuff like that. Just little things that, once you get into the game, make it a little easier to play and be loose."

"As far as drills and stuff like that, Orlando's helping me out. As far as catching form, he's adjusting my stance to be a little bit quicker."

2006 draft pick John Hester has put his Stanford degree to good use, also sharing his catcher's wisdom with Curreri. 

"Me and Hes work on a lot together as far as catching stuff and talk about different sequences to different guys, and pitch calling," Curreri told us.  "So it's worked out well to have a couple people to bounce ideas off of."

Curreri now takes more pride in the defensive aspects of his game than he does his offensive prowess.

"If you can't get along and make your pitchers work with you, you're not going to get very far.  You've gotta be able to trust them and they've got to be able to trust you, no matter who it is on the mound." 

Major League Clone: Robert Fick

Prediction: While Frank Curreri is an easy guy to root for, it's no secret that he's still a bit of a longshot.  His ability to hit left-handed sets him apart from many other catchers in the organization, but Miguel Montero and switch-hitting Wilkin Castillo still block his path.  If Montero gets traded as is rumored, that would go a long way towards boosting Curreri's chances of making it with the Diamondbacks.                

ETA:  2010.  That's when Curreri turns 27, and if he isn't ready for the major leagues by then, he's probably never going to get there.  He will be eligible for the Rule Five draft next winter, but his lack of pro experience will likely ward off any potential vultures.  2009 will be a different story, when the Diamondbacks will need to decide whether or not to add this big catcher to their 40-man roster before that 2010 season. 

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