M's Prospect Watch - The Catchers

Dan Wilson has been in Seattle for over a decade, and Ben Davis hasn't exactly showed that he's the Mariners' catcher of the future. With that being said, here are the catchers that InsidethePark.com's Jason A. Churchill feels are the top in the M's minor league system. Will any turn into Dan Wilsons? Only time will tell.

Catching. As a kid, nobody wants to do it. Nobody wants to crouch down for three hours and stand up 30 times an inning to throw the ball back to the pitcher.

When kids turn into teenagers, usually only one, on a roster of 15 to 20, can be persuaded into catching. And that player is usually thought of as somewhat of an outsider. He is not the same as the pitchers or the shortstops. After all, he agreed to be the catcher.

When high school rolls around, you might see two or three players catching regularly. They are usually the players with no special skill other than toughness and a throwing arm. It's the only way they can make the team, so they volunteer to catch. They remain somewhat of an outsider to the players who play the "cool" positions like shortstop or centerfield.

When in college or the minor leagues, the catcher is very much respected in the clubhouse as the other players realize how difficult and vital the catcher spot is to a team's success.

In the big leagues it's very different. Even if he isn't that talented, everybody loves the catcher. It's become much more of a glamour position than ever before as baseball turns more cerebral.

Here guys that the Mariners hope can make it that far, the top catchers in Seattle's minor league system:

1. Luis Oliveros, 20, 6-1/205, R/R
2003 Team: Inland Empire - High-A
.286 AVG /.333 OBP /.391 SLG 5HR, 41RBI, 19 2B

Outlook/2004: Oliveros jumped over fellow catching prospect Rene Rivera and landed in Inland for 2003. His leapfrog promotion was upheld by his strong offensive and defensive performances. Oliveros, as with most young catchers, has "developing" power and hitting instincts that will get better with playing time. His defense is better than average and could propel him into Double-A sooner than expected but he could begin 2004 back with the defending champion Inland Empire 66ers.
MLB ETA: 2006
MLB Clone: Brad Ausmus, Eddie Perez

2. Rene Rivera, 20, 5-10/200, R/R
2003 Team: Wisconsin-A
.275/.344/.388 9HR, 54RBI, 19 2B

Outlook/2004: Rivera is considered the best defensively among the catching prospects in the organization. His bat spoke kindly of him as well and he will likely start 2004 at High-A Inland Empire or Double-A San Antonio. Oliveros and Rivera are rated very similarly overall and will battle it out in the spring. Rivera has solid power potential with a homerun ceiling around 12-14. His eye at the plate is solid and his throwing arm is well above average.
MLB ETA: 2007
MLB Clone: Jason Kendall, Paul Loduca

3. Cesar Quintero, 21, 6-1/200, R/R
2003 Teams: Peoria-R, Inland - High-A .322/.375/.436 1HR, 17RBI, 6 2B

Outlook/2004: Quintero made a late season jump to Inland to assist in the catching duties and was on the postseason roster. Offensively, Quintero rates very high for his solid plate skills and ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. On the defensive side, he is improving quickly but needs to be more consistent blocking pitches in the dirt. Pitchers tend to love pitching to him and this bodes well for any catcher. Quintero might get into the battle for the High-A and Double-A catching spot with Oliveros and Rivera, but likely will be the starter for Wisconsin when the season begins.
MLB ETA: 2007
MLB Clone: Benito Santiago, Mike Barrett

Other Notables:
Ryan Christianson, 22, INJ
Justin Maduro, 22, Everett/Tacoma.

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