Top 30 Cincinnati Prospects: No. 9

Mat Latos was one of the bigger names moved in this year’s winter meetings and he returned Anthony DeSclafani who appears to have an inside track to a spot in Cincinnati’s rotation this season. Miami also added Chad Wallach to the deal and he arrives as the top catching prospect in the Reds system.

Catcher Chad Wallach is new to the Cincinnati organization after coming over from Miami in the Mat Latos trade. He started playing professionally after the Marlins drafted him out of Cal St. Fullerton in 2013. After that he debuted in the New York Penn League and came back last year to spend most of his season in low-A with a last season promotion to high-A Jupiter. One thing he showed the Marlins, and the Reds, in 2014 was that he knows how to hit single A pitching, slashing a line of .322 AVG/.431 OB/.457 SLG.

Wallach is the son of MLB third baseman Tim Wallach and if he develops skills in the batter’s box like his father his tenure at the MLB level will be a long one. His 6’3”/210# physique is good for a catcher and gives reason to believe that he can add power to his game above and beyond the seven homers he hit in his first full season last year. He’s already shown good plate discipline at the lower levels, hence the OBP that is more than .100’ higher than his gaudy batting average. He’s also limited his strikeouts to only 15% of his plate appearances.

Of course defensive skills are more important for catchers than any other position and play behind the plate has been known to sustain some long MLB careers for mediocre hitters. In that department Wallach still needs some improvement. He wasn’t charged with many errors last season, but he gunned down only 26% of opposing base-stealers including 14% in his nineteen games after promotion. His arm profiles as plenty strong to improve that number if he can polish his release for a quicker delivery.

Now at the age of 24 he’ll probably start next season at Dayton with the opportunity for a second half promotion across the state to Pensacola if he continues to hit. That appears to be more likely than not because his bat didn’t slow down at all in his brief experience against Florida State League pitching last year. Cutting down more steal attempts would be helpful to punching his ticket and he'll probably get an early chance because Jupiter opponents were swiping bags generously against him last season, 30 in 18 games.

Wallach arrives in Cincinnati as their top-rated catching prospect, but long term that position is cloudy for anyone after the breakout season by Devin Mesoraco last year. Also, he’s not been competing against older competition after prepping at a top-notch school so he could stub his toe some as he moves up to higher levels. However, he projects as an offensive-minded catcher who will back up at the MLB level if he doesn’t secure regular duty, so there’s good value.

Mat Latos was one of the most desired pitchers to hit the trade market this offseason and at first glance it appears that his return wasn’t much better than Alfredo Simon’s. However, Cincinnati surely had multiple options for the big right-hander so they must have seen something they liked in both Wallach and Anthony DeSclafani. Wallach’s dead even walk and strikeout totals over his first two minor league seasons probably got some attention. He was also a late-bloomer in college, never hitting above .300 until his junior season after waiting until the 43rd round to hear his named called in 2010 when the Dodgers drafted him out of high school. DeSclafani appears to have the inside track on the five-man spot in the rotation as the Reds head to spring training, but Wallach hasn’t been too terribly old for his levels and it appears that the Reds picked up a nice under-the-radar catching prospect in the deal as well.

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