Young Catchers Help Phils Develop Pitchers

Chicks may dig the long ball and hard-hitting catchers are always a plus, but when it comes to developing pitchers, the guy behind the plate has a lot to do with it. The Phillies know that and judge their catchers accordingly.

When the Phillies first scouted Jason Jaramillo back in 2001, his defense had caught their eye. They drafted him that year, but he didn't sign. Three years later, his defense was even better and the Phillies took him in the second round of the 2004 Draft. That draft brought the Phillies three catchers in the first ten rounds as they addressed a need to fill a hole behind the plate.

When the 2005 season ended, Jaramillo had worked his way up to Lakewood. The normal progression of things would have taken him to Clearwater in 2006, but the Phillies had other plans. As the pitching staff at Double-A Reading was being assembled, it was becoming clear that the R-Phils staff would be a valued group of young arms. They didn't want to risk those arms with just anybody behind the plate, so Jaramillo skipped over Clearwater and moved to Reading to help handle the staff. It was a move that Reading pitching coach Tom Filer applauded. "Jason was great at working with pitchers. They trusted him and he was very much like having another pitching coach," said Filer.

This season, Reading has Tim Gradoville and Jason Hill to handle their pitching staff. While the staff may not be as stellar as last year's Double-A staff, there is some talent coming along and Filer is happy to have catchers who can work with them. "I always look to the catchers to handle things. They're my eyes on the field and can give me a lot of information about how a pitcher is throwing and what's happening," noted Filer.

This is the third season in a row that Gradoville is starting the year at Reading, but this time, he's the number one catcher. Hill is a veteran minor leaguer, who is more noted for his defense than he is for offense. Again, no coincidence. "I'm glad we've got veteran catchers here who can handle the pitchers," admitted Filer. "I know they would both like to be in Ottawa, but on a selfish note, I'm happy to have them here, because they're both solid."

Meanwhile, Lou Marson, another find in the 2004 Draft, is also coming along nicely. Like Jaramillo, Marson drew attention based on his defensive prowess. He's known for a strong arm and quick release that helps him to throw out base runners. Orlando Gueverra is the other catcher on the Threshers roster and another catcher known for strong defense.

Perhaps the best pitching staff in the organization is at Lakewood and the BlueClaws have Tuffy Gosewisch as their primary catcher. Gosewisch got off to a good start offensively, but isn't known primarily for his offense. The Phillies actually demoted Gosewisch this season, dropping him to Lakewood after he hit .252 with 9 home runs at Clearwater last season.

As for Jaramillo, he's moved along to Triple-A Ottawa and is hitting .273 for the Lynx. He's progressing just as the Phillies had hoped and he hasn't shown any ill effects of skipping over Clearwater to move to Double-A last season to handle the stellar staff of prospects. In fact, even with the presence of Carlos Ruiz at the major league level, Jaramillo is still seen as the catcher of the future for the Phillies, starting as soon as next season.

The Phillies have pretty well closed the catching hole in their organization. Not all of their young catchers show strong offensive potential, but the majority of them do have a penchant for handling pitchers and are strong defensively. Catching is always a key and the Phillies know that it's an extension of building their pitching for the future. Don't look at light hitting catchers who spend a lot of time in the minors as journeymen, since the Phillies have proven that there is more to players like Gradoville and Guevera than may hit the stat sheets.


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