The Phillies could conceivably carry three catchers in 2007. The scenario plays out like this; Carlos Ruiz would do the majority of catching, with Chris Coste getting to catch on occasion and playing at other spots now and then. Coste could also be one of the first off the bench to pinch-hit in a key spot. That would bring up the need for a third - read that emergency - catcher and that's where Ryan Budde comes in.
Budde has come up through the Angels farm system after being drafted in the 12th round of the 2001 Draft. He signed that July, but didn't make his professional debut until the 2002 season and the Angels didn't feel the need to protect him in the Rule 5 Draft, but that doesn't mean that they wanted to lose him.
Budde is known for his defense, which makes him the perfect third catcher on a roster. Offensively, he's going to chip in a hit here and there, but a little more there than here. He averaged just .233 in 454 minor league games since joining the Angels organization and has just 44 home runs in almost 1,500 at bats. The right-handed hitting 27 year old is about as ready as he'll ever be for a shot with a big league club though after putting in two-plus seasons at the Triple-A level.
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A look back at 2006: Ryan Budde put in his second full season at Triple-A in 2006 and has yet to make his major league debut. Budde also showed a slight improvement in cutting down his walk/strikeout ratio, but still strikes out too much for the offense that he provides. After 428 at bats at the Triple-A level, the Angels hadn't seen enough to give Budde a late season audition and chose not to protect him in the Rule 5 Draft.
Analysis: This is a guy who truly could find a niche as a backup catcher. He doesn't provide offense, but he's a strong defensive catcher and he handles pitchers well. Pitchers like having him behind the plate because he blocks pitches in the dirt (he allowed just 3 passed balls in 38 games last season and none in 46 games the prior season.) He has a decent arm and can play some first base in a pinch.
Will he stick? The theory of keeping three catchers is a real possibility for the Phillies this season. If he does make the club, he'll be pretty well buried on the bench and only see the light of day on rare occasions. The Phillies have enough offense in the rest of their lineup that they could afford to have a backup catcher who didn't hit too well. Ruiz and Coste would be getting the major portion of the playing time, but if the Phillies plan on getting at bats for both of them, then having an emergency catcher would be a definite necessity.
Actually, the odds are that there is a decent shot that Budde could stick with the club as long as he impresses the coaches and the pitching staff with his defense and the ability to work with pitchers when he gets his look in the Spring.
If the Phillies decide not to keep Budde and offer him back to the Angels, there is a chance that they may not take him and let the Phillies send him down to Triple-A Ottawa to serve as an insurance policy.