Houston Astros: Assessing the Catcher Situation
By Cody Poage
Option #3: Tyler Heineman/Alfredo Gonzalez/Trent Woodward/Roberto Pena
Jul 16, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Canada catcherKellin Deglan
(22) is thrown out at home plate in the fifth inning as Puerto Rico catcher Roberto Pena (10) tags him out during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Ajax Pan Am Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Barring an unexpected injury or trade, the probability that any out of this quartet of Astros catchers makes the 2016 major league 25-man roster seems slim. However, they are still options that the organization may consider before acting on acquiring any outside help.
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Tyler Heineman and Trent Woodward are currently listed on the Astros AAA affiliate, the Fresno Grizzlies, the roster as the two primary catchers. So, in theory, this would lead us to believe that they are the most likely to earn a major league promotion first. And even though Alfredo Gonzalez is the lone player of the four listed on the 40-man roster, the organization does have the roster flexibility to ensure that either Heineman and Woodward would be the next catcher from within the system to be placed on the roster.
Out of the two, it appears that Heineman is the closest to a major league promotion while Woodward has yet to receive significant playing time above the Class A level. Barring an unforeseen issue, both catchers will probably need more time in Fresno before the Astros are ready to promote the pair to the major leagues.
Roberto Pena, however, is often regarded as the top defensive catcher in the Astros system. Currently, he is on the Corpus Christi Hooks roster and could actually be selected by another franchise in the upcoming Rule V draft. But his lack of offense during his time in the minors may be the only issue holding him back.
The wildcard on the 40-man roster from the catcher position is Alfredo Gonzalez. He has been in the Astros system since 2011, but recently had his best offensive showing in 2015. In fact, between stints at the A-, A+, and AA levels in 2015, the 23-year old prospect slashed .321/.409/.378 with 2 HR and 35 RBI. He also had a cumulative caught stealing percentage of 47%, which was a career-best so far in his professional career.
So there are options in the minor league system for the Astros. But each of the four mentioned above may still be at least one to two years away from contributing to the major league squad.
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And the organization may feel the need to target a free agent or trade for a catcher to help bridge the gap for a season or two while waiting for more prospects to rise through the system.
**Statistics are provided by Fangraphs.com, Baseball Reference, & Statcorner.com**