When Chace Numata was in his senior season at Pearl City High School, teams weren't quite sure what to make of him. Was he a pitcher, a shortstop, a catcher? He had played all of those positions in high school and posted a 1.08 ERA in his senior season as a closer for the Pearl City Chargers, striking out 28 hitters in 13 innings of work. When he wasn't on the mound, he was playing shortstop, albeit without a lot of pop in his bat, but some decent defensive skills. With two other quality catchers, the Chargers never needed to put Numata behind the plate in his senior season, but teams still had him go through some drills as a catcher in workouts to get a look at him.
The Phillies were one of the teams that took a look at Numata from every angle, including as a catcher, and decided that was his best bet for success in professional baseball. When they drafted him with the 441st overall pick in 2010, they knew there was a lot of work to be done, but they also liked the basic tools that Numata had going for him.
After a lackluster pro debut in the Gulf Coast League in 2010, Numata fractured the hamate bone in his right wrist the following spring, forcing him to miss most of the regular season, playing in just nine games. He underwent surgery to repair the left wrist prior to the 2014 season, but both injuries appear to be in the past and don't hamper any part of his game.
The big improvement has come defensively. Through his first four seasons, Numata struggled to throw out would-be base stealers, tossing out just 24-percent of the runners attempting to steal. Over the past two seasons, Numata has thrown runners out at a 36-percent clip thanks to improvements in his footwork and mechanics. Those same improvements have made him much better at blocking pitches in the dirt and he continues to get better.
Offensively, it's going to be interesting to see if 2015 will go down as a turnaround season for Numata with the bat. He didn't hit higher than .235 in any season until 2015 when he hit a combined .268 with Lakewood and Clearwater. If the offensive numbers can stay around that level, Numata will have a shot at becoming at least a major league backup caliber catcher.
Chace Numata - career stats
|Minors (6 seasons)||Minors||266||939||834||100||202||32||3||6||107||11||3||75||117||.242||.310||.309||.619|
The big picture...
This is a key season for the 23-year old backstop. He has to continue to fine tune his defensive skills, but more importantly, he has to show that the offensive numbers he was able to produce last season weren't a fluke. Nobody expects him to put up any sort of power numbers or become a batting champion, but he has to be respectable enough to help his team albeit as a bottom of the order hitter. He's eligible for minor league free agency following the 2016 season, so if things don't work out, it's likely that the Phillies simply let him look for employment elsewhere. If we see more of the player that we saw from Numata in 2015, then he simply has to work his way into the ranks of the pretty crowded catching prospects in the Phillies organization.