According to Baseball America, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed catcher Jackson Williams to a minor league contract. The 30-year-old backstop has played parts of two seasons in the majors, getting seven games each with the 2014 Colorado Rockies and the 2015 San Francisco Giants.

Williams split the 2016 season between Double-A and Triple-A for the Rockies, re-signing with the club after spending one season with the Giants. He was originally drafted 43rd overall in the 2007 draft by the Giants and spent his first seven seasons in their system. He signed with the Rockies in 2014, then was lost after the season on waivers to the Los Angeles Angels, who sold him back to the Giants during Spring Training of 2015. Williams hit .199/.265/.263 last season.

While he has a career slash line of .222/.305/.324 in ten minor league seasons, he’s strong enough defensively that it got him to the majors. The Pirates value strong defense behind the plate, and a veteran catcher like Williams could be valuable to the young pitchers in the system. Baseball America voted him the best defensive catcher in the Giants’ system three years (2007-08, 2010) and he was also named the best defensive catcher for the Eastern League in 2009 and the Pacific Coast League in 2010. He was called Gold Glove-caliber, with a quick release, strong arm, excellent blocking and game calling skills. He also works well with pitchers. Williams has thrown out 36% of base stealers during his career. The lack of recognition since 2010 is more a reflection of his prospect status slipping, rather than diminishing defensive skills.

The Pirates recently signed two minor league catchers out of independent ball, so they seem to be filling out their system after trading Reese McGuire and Taylor Gushue a few months ago, and cutting Eric Fryer last month. After looking like they had the exact number of catchers needed for the top four levels (Pirates down to Bradenton), they now have added some depth in case of injury.

Williams will likely receive a non-roster invitation to Spring Training and he should fill in at Indianapolis or Altoona, wherever he is needed. If we see him in the majors, it will probably mean there has been a couple injuries. The bat isn’t Major League quality, but the defensive skills would make him a serviceable short-term backup.

UPDATE 11:13 AM: Just talked to Williams and he confirmed that he received a Spring Training invite. He also said that he will be at the winter mini-camp next week.

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  1. I refuse to discuss Chris Stewart. You all can’t make me.
    I literally have almost slightly an opinion either way about him. He is literally “The most average backup catcher in the world.” I’m ok with that. But I wish they had someone a little better.

      • Fryer was the worst receiving catcher I saw at any time during the past season. I saw him in AA when he was so bad they moved him to the OF,

        • Don’t get me wrong I don’t want Fryer, but I just feel Stewart has nothing, when he throws to 2nd I’m just happy if it doesn’t end up in CF. When he’s hitting if he gets it to the OF grass it’s a miracle.

      • They are pretty much the same guy. Being from Ohio and an Ohio St guy I will always root for Fryer. There are just a handful of OSU guys floating around out there.

  2. He’s like Tony Sanchez. Better offensively in limited mlb time than in minors. But Williams can throw

      • 2 is all of our upper level depth, and all most teams have…. unless you know teams that stash 5 AAA level catchers whom can play in the majors and not embarrass themselves.

        • I don’t think trading Taylor Gushue is the kind of “upper level” depth that you are talking about being traded since he was in Bradenton when he was traded…right?

  3. There it is, the big news we have been waiting for this week
    while Tim is off moving, getting a break and gearing up for 2017!

    • Yes, this is exactly why I’ve been planted in front of the computer since Sunday. I’d still rather be doing this than packing up and moving though!

  4. “The Pirates value strong defense behind the plate…..”

    Hard to buy that statement, if that includes throwing would be base stealers out and not making errors – because Stewart is still on the roster…

    • ^So predictable. Clearly the Pirates don’t value C defense at all simply because Stewart threw a few balls into CF. You’re not seeing the bigger picture here. They obviously have been keeping Gift around because he has the range to save Stewart’s wayward throws and Rogers is here becasue he’s slow and Stewart can throw him out stealing a couple times this spring to build his confidence.

      • It is too bad that Bob Prince is not around calling games. If Rodgers would get thrown out trying to steal, I could hear him saying, “He had larceny in his heart and lead in his feet.”

    • I actually agree with you here. The amount of tedious work behind that plate that is impossible to quantify reasonably- compared to the obvious and quantifiable mistakes he make- it does make one question how they think stewart is a good defender. Stewart makes a lot of mental errors, nearly every one of those throwing errors is on plays where the base was already stolen and there was no chance of throwing him out…….he just hands them an extra base. No matter how good he is in other areas, those types of mental and physical errors are not excusable.

        • I just laughed out loud- Thank you MD. I’m sure someone has him at a positive base running value, for whatever ridiculous marginal statistical system they use to come up with that garbage

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