Houston Astros: Fresno Player Spotlight – Catcher
By Colin Gay
A Look at the Houston Astros Catchers at Triple-A Fresno
The Fresno Grizzlies, the Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate, look to defend their title as they open their season against the Las Vegas 51’s, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, on Thursday at 7:05 pm. With the Houston Astros organization already having a lot of expectations coming into their season, the potential on this Grizzlies team is tremendous. This roster is full of players that are just a month or so away from making The Show.
One of the more interesting positions to watch at Fresno is at catcher. Because of the injury to probable backup catcher Max Stassi during Spring Training, both catchers on the Grizzlies roster, Tyler Heineman, and Roberto Pena has time to show the major league club what they were made of. However, the trade in which the Astros acquired Erik Kratz secured both of their spots in Triple-A. So what can we expect from each of these catchers in Fresno?
Drafted in the eighth round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Astros, Heineman is by no means your typical offensive catcher. However, he has been a reliable option for the offense in the Astros organization.
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In his four seasons in the Astros minor league system, Heineman has hit .288 with a .773 OPS. Shown by his .409 slugging percentage, power is not really Heineman’s game. He only had 20 extra base hits in his 78 games in 2015 and 17 of those 20 went for doubles.
However, he can get on base. For his career, Heineman has posted a .364 on-base percentage and has walked 101 times compared to his ten strikeouts.
He has regressed throughout his time in the minors. In 2013, Heineman broke out and hit 13 home runs and drove in 71 RBIs for Single-A Lancaster. He hit .286 and had an OPS of .837 that season. That is the kind of offense that Fresno is expecting out of Heineman in 2016.
If he can hit the ball more frequently, Heineman can be the table setter the Grizzlies need to generate a potentially great offense.
Not the best offensive option behind the plate, Pena is not only the best defensive catcher but arguably the best defensive prospect the Astros currently have in their system.
With a career fielding percentage at .992, Pena has thrown out 204 runners of the 455 stolen base attempts. He also has a total of 40 passed balls in over 3800 innings caught in his minor league career.
The only thing that needs to develop a bit is his bat. Pena has a career batting average of .238 and an OPS of .637. Also, he only has 27 home runs.
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Pena is a defensive whiz behind the plate, and that could really prove well to help out the young staff at Fresno. However, without much of an offensive presence, Pena will need his defensive and throwing ability to dismiss any doubts offensively.