The Phillies knew for years that catching was thin in their organization. In the 2002 Draft, they addressed the situation - sort of - when they drafted Trent Pratt. In taking Pratt (who is no relation to Todd Pratt) the Phillies found a catching prospect who was top notch defensively, but well below that top notch as a hitter.
At Auburn, Pratt drew rave reviews from pitchers on the staff during his tenure and also from coaches and scouts. Not only did he handle himself well defensively, but he has a good sense of how to work with pitchers to get the most out of him. Two freshman Auburn pitchers threw no-hitters with Pratt behind the plate and it was no coincidence.
Early on in his professional career, Pratt has stayed true to form and has been excellent defensively, but has been somewhat lacking offensively. This past season, his second at Clearwater, he finished the year under .200 and hasn't really even given the Phillies the minimum that they had hoped for as a defensive oriented catcher. He did try to develop more power this past season, but his average dipped and his strikeouts increased and he only produced four homeruns, so that approach obviously didn't work. In college, he struggled to hit just over .300 and the Phillies had hoped that he might be able to become a .250 or .260 hitter in the minor league system to at least warrant keeping him around for his defense. Now, with Pratt struggling and other young catching prospects coming through the system, it's do or die for young Pratt.
|Year / Team||HR||RBI||AVG||SB||G||AB||R||H||2B||3B||BB||KO||OBP|
Offense and Power: The Phillies weren't looking for miracles when it came to Pratt's offense. They knew he wouldn't be Johnny Bench, but they were hoping for at least a player that would hit a point or two closer to .300 than to .200. So far, it doesn't look like Pratt will be that type of hitter. He hit his first four homeruns of his minor league career this past season at Clearwater. The added power wasn't enough to compensate for the fact that Pratt hit .195 - 29 points under his career minor league average.
Baserunning and Speed: He's a catcher, so discussing speed isn't really much of a topic. Pratt is average on the basepaths, but certainly won't steal many bases or have the speed necessary to take many extra bases here and there.
Defense: If defense alone made a prospect, Pratt would be very close to the majors. There has been very little work to do on Pratt's defense and even though he has struggled at the plate, his defense has remained strong. He has good mechanics and an above average arm. The fact that he works well with pitchers is definitely a plus and the Phillies like having him around for that reason, because it's clearly a skill that you can't really teach.
Projection: It's tough to promote a player after they hit .195 in their second season at a particular level, but the Phillies might move Pratt along to AA. It would be an interesting move. It certainly wouldn't be out of the question though that they would keep him at Clearwater, at least to start the season, and then move him along later in the season. There will be young catchers coming through the ranks that will likely need to have Pratt moved aside - or ahead - to keep them playing. Since the Phillies love his defense, Pratt could move up to make room for one of the new guys.
ETA: If Pratt ever gets his offense to an acceptable level, he'll have a shot at the majors. For now, he'll likely just be one of those guys who hangs around as long as an organization needs a warm body behind the plate. Don't figure on seeing him in Philadelphia any time before 2008.
Comparison: Mario Mendoza. Not just because his average is likely to hang around the Mendoza line, but because Mendoza was a player who saw a little time in the majors because he had speed and defensive skills. Pratt lacks the speed, but his defensive skills are so good, that the comparison can be made.