Is Apodaca A Catcher of the Future?

One of the hardest commodities to find is this game is a catcher who's both adept back of the plate and with a bat in his hand. You find those with defensive skills but who are woeful while hitting or, conversely, a player who can deliver hits but can't throw out your grandmother. You get that rare combination of skills and you have Russell Martin.

The Dodgers are fortunate to have him for there doesn't appear to be any clone of him down lower. Among the aspirants is Juan Apodaca, who can catch and throw okay and who just last week homered three times in a game for Vero Beach. So, could he be an answer?

Apodaca is an enigma. As noted, he's competent enough catching and has an above average arm. And he's shown signs that he could be a hitter. But they seem to emerge only upon occasion. Like Punxsutawney Phil, they then scramble back into a hole, not to be seen for awhile.

Those homers were certainly legitimate example of plus power. He sent on to the screen in center at Holman Stadium, another over the left field fence and still a third, clearing everything in right. But he only had one for Vero before that plus one he hit at Columbus before being promoted. What's more, he really hasn't been heard from since.

Apodaca's a stocky (5-11, 180) Venezuelan who just turned 20 in July. He spent two years in the Dominican Summer League where he didn't hit anything out of the park but when he came here looked so good in spring training that he was pushed up to Columbus to start the 2005 season.

He did have four homers there but was averaging only .244 so was sent back to Ogden when the Pioneer League season began. Here, he thrived, batting .278 with 10 shots sent out. Now, they figured, he was just beginning to show what they hoped is inside.

That didn't really happen at Columbus this year, though. He managed only a .249 mark with just one homer but was pulled up anyway to Vero.

Even with those mighty rips last week, he's still averaging .229 while sharing catching duties- in one day, sitting the next, for the Dodgers now have three catchers stationed there. Ryder Mathias was getting equal time with Apodaca and, now, Gabriel Gutierrez has been sent back from Jacksonville when Brad Cresse was activated from the disabled list there.

Gutierrez may be an even better receiver although his bat is more suspect. Mathias hasn't been all that impressive either after coming from Tampa Bay in a trade

In the meantime, Apodaca works on not committing too early at the plate which seems to be part of the problem. Another, of course, is that catch 22- he needs playing time to develop but he doesn't play consistently enough to earn it.

And the question remains whether those three homers is a herald of things to come or just a flash of lightning in an otherwise dark sky.