Top Prospect #6: Jason Jaramillo

Jason Jaramillo was given the early tag of Phillies "catcher of the future" and is looking to make that tag stick. This season, the Phillies have said that they'll probably skip Jaramillo over Clearwater to put him at Reading, catching the star-studded pitching staff at AA.

Since Jason Jaramillo comes from a baseball family, he knows the ropes better than many players in his position. He knows that skipping over the High-A level can be tough for a young player, but he's looking forward to the opportunity. Still, there has to be a part of Jason Jaramillo that is feeling at least a little pressure, mainly because his two older brothers - Lee and Francisco - both failed to reach AA ball in their short minor league careers. There has to be some pressure on Jaramillo knowing that he's looking to succeed at levels that his brothers weren't able to succeed at when they played.

Of course, being stamped as the Phillies "catcher of the future" from the moment he was drafted, put some immediate pressure on Jaramillo, but he's handled it well. After all, this is a kid that the Phillies were after when he graduated from high school, drafting him 39th round of the 2001 Draft, only to take him in the 2nd round three years later. Jaramillo could have returned to Oklahoma State for his final season, but decided against returning to college ball and opted to start his professional career. After some early jitters through his first season, Jaramillo somewhat exploded last year at Lakewood, hitting .304 with the BlueClaws.

Now, with the potential of three of the Phillies top four pitching prospects pitching at AA Reading in 2006, the Phillies have basically said that they want Jaramillo catching them. His ability to work with pitchers and to provide solid defense behind the plate makes him a good choice to have working with such high-level prospects. Plus, it moves Jaramillo a little closer to the majors and with Mike Lieberthal in the last year of his contract, Jaramillo will be needed in Philly before too long.

'04 GCL 0 1 .667 1 3 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 .667
'04 Batavia 1 14 .223 31 112 11 25 5 0 0 12 27 .299
'05 Lakewood 8 63 .304 119 448 46 136 28 4 2 44 72 .368
Career 9 78 .290 151 563 58 163 33 4 2 56 99 .355

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the second round of the 2004 Draft out of Oklahoma State University. Was originally drafted by the Phillies out of high school in the 39th round of the 2001 Draft, but decided to play at Oklahoma State rather than signing a pro contract.

Batting and Power: Jaramillo won't give the Phillies an abundance of power, but the Phillies believe that he can hit 10 or 12 homerun a season in the majors. If he is able to hit in the .270 - .280 range, the Phillies would be ecstatic. Basically, Jaramillo is the type of hitter who chips in where he can on offense and makes his money playing defensively.

Baserunning and Speed: There are even other catchers that have more speed than Jaramillo possesses, so don't look for that to be a big part of his game. He's as aggressive as he can be on the bases, but simply doesn't have the means to do much more than simply not run into outs.

Defense: Managers in the South Atlantic League voted Jaramillo the best defensive catcher in the league last season, even though he committed more errors than any other minor league catcher (20). The reason for the honor was Jaramillo's ability and willingness to block pitches in the dirt and throw out runners attempting to steal, which he did at a 34% rate last season. He works with pitchers well and even called his own pitches in college, getting rave reviews from pitchers on the staff. He's definitely a defensive minded prospect, who will do what he can offensively, but will make his presence known on defense and with his leadership abilities.

Projection: If the Phillies stick to their early proclamations of moving Jaramillo past Clearwater and right into Reading's lineup, it's going to be a big step for Jaramillo. He's got plenty of talent and scouts believe that he can handle the jump without too much difficulty. There is some difference of opinion as to whether Jaramillo or Lou Marson will ultimately turn out to take over behind the plate at Citizens Bank Park and truly become the Phillies catcher of the future, but because he's further advanced than Marson, Jaramillo will get first shot at staking his claim to the job. It's going to be very interesting to watch Jaramillo, because the Phillies will need a catcher in 2007, but Jaramillo may only be reaching AAA. Will the Phillies push him that hard to reach the majors or will they find a stopgap answer behind the plate for at least part of the '07 season?

Comparison: Many scouts see a young Johnny Estrada in Jason Jaramillo. Estrada has developed into a strong major league catcher, who may not be the best in the league, but he handles pitchers well and chips in with a few key hits here and there. That's exactly the kind of player that Jaramillo figures to be when he settles into a major league job.


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