Prospect Review: Catchers

The Prospect Reviews continue as Ian Levin "catches" up with the thin crop of backstops in the Mariners farm system.



Luis Oliveros
Age at end of 2004: 21
2003: .286/.333/.391, 5 HR, 19 2B, 41 RBI
Post-2003 Ranking: No. 1 C, No. 14 overall
2004: .229/.280/.341, 4 HR, 19 2B, 22 RBI

The Good:
At the end of the 2003 season, Oliveros was the top rated catcher in the system. He was a holding his own with his bat and playing well defensively in High-A. Similar to most young hitters, particularly catchers, his power will eventual develop and his hitting instincts will get better as time goes on. While he regressed some offensively in 2004, his power and batting eye were similar to 2003. He is an above average defensive catcher and with time, could become very good defensively. As a 21-year-old catcher in Double-A, Oliveros' numbers need to be given a little boost. He may repeat Double-A in 2005 but with signs of improvement he could be given the chance to move up.

The Bad:
While his batting eye and power remained similar from year to year, his strikeout rate soared, affecting his average. He went from 24 strikeouts in 322 AB in 2003 to 42 in 279 AB in 2004. Part of the change comes from the jump to Double-A but a good prospect should be able to maintain a steady level of production as he gets better along with the competition. Oliveros will need to concentrate on making contact and the rest of his game will develop.

The Necessary: Wherever Oliveros begins the 2005 season he will have the opportunity to improve the aspect he needs the most work on, his plate discipline. As he gains more experience behind the plate his defensive skills will naturally develop. With more natural size and maturity, his power will develop at the plate. The one thing he can control is his discipline and improving that will help improve all other aspects of his offensive game.


Rene Rivera
Age at end of 2004: 21
2003: .275/.344/.388, 9 HR, 19 2B, 54 RBI
Post-2003 Ranking: No. 2 C, No. 19 overall
2004: .235/.300/.346, 6 HR, 22 2B, 53 RBI

The Good:
Rivera is an excellent defensive catcher with the potential to improve even more. He is known to be a great backstop to work with as all pitchers speak very highly of him. His throwing arm is well above average and that helps him control the running game. At the plate, he shows good plate discipline, posting solid walk rates over the last two seasons. His bat can continue to improve and he has the potential to hit upwards of 15 home runs at the Major League level. The Mariners thought so highly of him towards the end of the year that he was a September call-up and given the opportunity to work with the ML coaching staff.
The Bad:
Rivera regressed slightly at the plate in 2004. Even though his strikeout rate slightly improved, his average dropped by .40 points. He must continue to work hard on his offense as it isn't coming around as quickly as the Mariners had hoped. The defense is there and he will be one of the best defensive catchers around unless he loses focus defensively.

The Necessary:
Rivera must find a way to bring his offense up a level so that it is enough to get by with his outstanding defense. He has become the best catching prospect in the system but that is not all his own doing. His stint as a September call-up may have given him the boost he needs to keep that top prospect status and keep the momentum going into the 2005 season.


Ryan Christianson
Age at end of 2004: 23
2003: DNP
Post-2003 Ranking: N/A
2004: Double-A: .280/.329/.371, 1 HR, 9 2B, 13 RBI
Triple-A: .258/.325/.430, 6 HR, 6 2B, 24 RBI


The Good:
Ryan Christianson has finally made it back. After battling injuries for all of 2003, Christianson, a former first-round pick, was healthy for a long enough period of time to get some at-bats. Christianson has excellent offensive skills, especially for a catcher. He has legitimate Major League power and has average plate discipline.

The Bad:
Christianson is below average defensively. The injuries he has battled are not helping him develop as it makes it harder for him to stay behind the plate. He needs more experience in the minors before given the opportunity with the M's. Offensively, while he projects as a good hitter, he has not always shown that in the minors. He has not hit above .282 at any one stop and his highest OBP came in the Northwest league in his first year of professional ball.

The Necessary:
The former 11th overall pick simply needs to stay healthy. If he can play a full season, he will be given a chance behind the plate again and could begin to develop defensively. He has a strong work ethic and if he gets some at-bats he will make the most of them. Christianson will likely spend 2005 in Triple-A and could see time in Seattle in September.


Justin Ruchti
Age at end of 2004: 23
2003: .276/.305/.342, 1 HR, 2 2B, 8 RBI
Post-2003 Ranking: N/A
2004:.222/.283/.300, 1 HR, 15 2B, 22 RBI

The Good:
Ruchti is at least on par with Rivera defensively. He was drafted out of Rice purely for his defensive skills and it has shown. He has impressed coaches with his defensive abilities. He has a strong arm and works well with pitchers. His experience at Rice, a top-level collegiate program, has helped him work with and get the most out of highly-talented pitchers. He has experience in pressure situations and is a prototypical Major League backup catcher.

The Bad:
As good as he may be behind the plate, he doesn't compliment it with much at the plate. At an old age for low-A, he struggled to hit .222 showing little power. Although he doesn't project as a full-time catcher in the majors, most backups need to be ready to handle a full-time role if something should happen to the starter. If Ruchti is to fulfill his potential, he will need to concentrate on improving his offense.

The Necessary:
The 2003 9th-round pick needs to work on his offense. His defense is at such a level that most of the improvement in the future will come simply from playing the position. If he can work hard at the plate, he could have a long, successful career as a backup in the majors.

Next: Saturday, November 13, Joseph A. Yencich analyzes the corner infielders.

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