Re: Salty solution
1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c Born: May 2, 1985; B-T: B-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 195
Drafted: HS–West Palm Beach, Fla., 2003 (1st round supplemental) Signed by: Alex Morrales
Jarrod Saltalamacchia Background: The 36th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Saltalamacchia built a reputation during high school as a big league hitter and has done little to disappoint. He established himself as the best all-around catching prospect in the minors with a breakout 2005 campaign. He set career highs across the board, rated as the top prospect in the high Class A Carolina League and starred for Team USA in an Olympic pre-qualifying tournament after the season. However, he followed up with his most difficult season as a pro. A lingering wrist injury and his increased focus on improving his defense led to struggles at the plate during the first half of the year. Saltalamacchia batted just .197 with four homers in the first three months before going on the disabled list with an injury to his wrist. He returned with a vengeance by hitting .338 with five homers in his last 23 games of the regular season before leaving Double-A Mississippi to rejoin Team USA for an Olympic qualifying tournament. Saltalamacchia helped the United States qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games and capped the event with a homer off Cuban closer Pedro Luis Lazo. He continued to rake in a brief stint in the Arizona Fall League, going 13-for-23 (.535) with three homers before hamstring problems shut him down. Saltalmacchia’s brother Justin spent a year in the Braves system as a utilityman in 2003.
Strengths: Saltalamacchia’s calling card is his ability to hit and drive the ball from both sides of the plate. He has one of the sweetest swings in the game from the left side, displaying a natural loft that should produce solid home run numbers. Despite his troubles in 2006, the Braves have no concerns about his offensive ability, especially with the way he regrouped at midseason. His walk rate continues to increase as he climbs the minor league ladder. Considered somewhat suspect defensively coming out of high school, Saltamacchia has worked very hard to get better. He spent the spring picking veteran Todd Pratt’s brain to upgrade his game-calling ability, and he continues to be more comfortable working with pitchers. He has a strong arm and a release that has quickened considerably, enabling him to throw out 36 percent of base stealers in 2006. Saltalamacchia has shown increased maturity, particularly after getting married midway through the 2005 season. Always upbeat, he has a desire to learn and improve.
Weaknesses: Consistency is the key to Saltalamacchia reaching the majors in the near future. He’ll make more consistent contact once he displays more patience and waits for his pitch. In 2006, opponents noticed Saltalamacchia collapsing the backside of his swing from both sides of the plate. His righthanded swing is a little mechanical, though he was more productive from that side in 2006. He batted .262 against lefties, compared with .214 against righties. Defensively, he needs to continue to improve his footwork and to learn how to set up more advanced hitters.
The Future: Brian McCann is one of the best young catchers in baseball, and while Saltamacchia is similarly gifted, there’s room for only one of them behind the plate in Atlanta. For now, Saltalamacchia will continue to hone his skills at catcher, where he has the most value. If he doesn’t begin the year at Triple-A Richmond, he should get there at some point in 2007. His bat should be ready for Atlanta by mid-2008, where the Braves may have to move him to first base or left field.
Rob Neyer: "Any writer who says he'd be a better manager than the worst manager is either 1) lying (i.e. 'using poetic license') or 2) patently delusional. Which isn't to say managers don't do stupid things that you or I wouldn't."