2009 Rule 5 Draft Preview: Catchers

The 2009 Rule 5 Draft will be held at the Winter Meetings on December 10th, 2009.  The Pirates have taken a player in the Rule 5 draft in each of the last two seasons, selecting Evan Meek in 2008, and Donald Veal in 2009.  Meek is now one of the top relief options in the Pirates’ bullpen, while Veal looked very promising in the 2009 Arizona Fall League after a year of work with Joe Kerrigan.

With the Pirates expected to make another Rule 5 selection in 2009, I decided to review some of the top draft options at each position, focusing primarily on positions of need for the Pirates (catcher, middle infield, corner outfield, pitcher).  I will be focusing on one position per day this week, starting today with some catching options.

The Pirates are pretty set with their catching situation.  They’ve got Ryan Doumit behind the plate, Jason Jaramillo backing him up, and Erik Kratz in AAA.  Tony Sanchez was their first round selection in the 2009 draft, and could be in the majors as early as 2011.  They also recently removed Robinzon Diaz from the 40-man roster.  Adding a catcher isn’t a major need, although the Pirates could add someone to back up Jaramillo in the event of a Doumit trade, or they could add another prospect as a backup in case Tony Sanchez doesn’t work out.

There are two catchers that caught my eye in the 2009 Rule 5 draft, one fitting the potential backup role, and the other fitting the extra prospect role as insurance for Sanchez.

Koby Clemens, C, HOU

Clemens is famous for being the son of pitcher Roger Clemens, selected by the Houston Astros in the eighth round of the 2005 draft (which was likely a strategy to get Roger to re-sign with Houston that year).  Clemens started his career as a third baseman, then converted over to a catcher in 2008, a year after putting up a .252/.344/.412 line with 15 homers in 413 at-bats in the South-Atlantic League at third base.  Clemens was moved primarily because he lacked range at third base.

Clemens had a .268/.369/.423 line in 2008 in his first season in high-A in the Carolina League.  More importantly, he caught 35 percent of base runners stealing in his first year as a catcher.  Clemens looked very strong this past season, with a .345/.419/.636 line and 22 homers in 423 at-bats in the California League.

The California League is a very hitter friendly league, ranking second in 2009 behind the Pacific Coast League amongst leagues from low-A to AAA, which means that Clemens may not have been as good as the numbers show.  That said, his numbers translate over to a .296/.373/.551 line with 18 homers in 430 at-bats in the Carolina League, so there is no doubt that he showed improvement.  Clemens did throw out 26 percent of base runners, which wasn’t as strong as his 2008 totals, but still respectable for someone fairly new to the position (for reference, Tony Sanchez threw out 30 percent in low-A).

Clemens would be a major project.  He turns 23 years old on December 4th, so he has plenty of time to advance and work on his career.  However, he has only 17 at-bats above high-A.  He should spend the 2010 season in AA, so a jump to the majors would be very hard to make.  His defense needs work, and a year as a third catcher isn’t going to help those matters.  He also would be hard to carry, as he doesn’t fit well at any other position.  Any team selecting Clemens might be able to keep him in the long run, as Houston has better catching options, and now that Roger Clemens is gone, I don’t think they’re married to the idea of keeping his son around.  The ideal situation would be drafting Clemens, hoping he clears waivers, then working out a deal with Houston to keep him in AA the entire season.

Anthony Recker, C, OAK

Recker is more of a backup catching option at this point in his career, although he rated as the 27th best prospect in Oakland’s system before the 2008 season.  Recker turned 26 years old on August 29th, making him exactly the same age as yours truly.  He split the 2009 season between AA and AAA, spending the majority of time in AAA.

In his time with Sacramento in AAA he hit for a .261/.333/.449 line with 12 homers in 272 at-bats.  The power isn’t necessarily a product of the Pacific Coast League, as Recker was considered to have plus-plus power in 2008 rankings.  Recker hit 13 homers in 207 at-bats in high-A ball in 2007.  He suffered a broken hammate bone, which limited him to 18 homers in 688 AA at-bats between the end of 2007 and the 2008 season.

Defensively, Recker looks strong in regards to limiting runners.  He caught 34 percent of base runners stealing in AAA in 2009, which is consistent with his career 33 percent line.  He also only saw six passed balls in 77 games, which is an improvement over the 20 he saw in 115 games in 2008.

Recker could be a strong Major League backup, similar to Jason Jaramillo.  However, the Pirates may not have a need for that, as they have Jaramillo backing up Doumit, and Erik Kratz at AAA, who put up similar numbers to Recker in the 2009 season with Indianapolis.

Check back tomorrow when I will review some middle infield options in the 2009 Rule 5 draft…

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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