Breaking Down the Catchers for 2010
Part 1 of 8 in the Dragons 2010 Positional Preview
The start of spring training is quickly approaching as the Reds prepare to begin the process of setting rosters at the Major League level and for their four full-season Minor League affiliates. Rosters will not be set until approximately April 3rd but here is part one of an eight-part series on the players who will potentially open the season with the Dragons at Fifth Third Field on April 8th against the Lansing Lugnuts.
Today we look at the catcher position.
In 2009, one of the biggest surprises in the entire organization was Dayton catcher Kevin Coddington, who represented the Dragons in the Midwest League All-Star Game after being selected in the 44th round (1,319th overall selection) of the 2008 draft.
The 2010 group of catchers includes an assortment of players from varying backgrounds. There appear to be five candidates for two or three roster spots. They include one player who starred for one of the top college programs in the country in 2009 and appeared in the College World Series; two players who saw limited action with the Dragons in '09; and two additional players drafted by the Reds out of strong Division I college programs.
The Reds invested their fourth round draft pick in 2009 in a catcher, selecting University of North Carolina star Mark Fleury. Fleury, the Most Valuable Player of the Georgia High School Baseball Tournament as a prep senior in 2006, started all 66 games last spring for the Tar Heels as they went all the way to the College World Series. For the season, he batted .309 with 12 home runs and 60 runs batted in (243 at-bats). He was a semi-finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top catcher. Because of the success of UNC's season, Fleury got a late start on his professional career and once he joined the Billings Mustangs in July, he struggled. He hit just .198 with 4 HR and 17 RBI (131 AB) for Billings. The Reds are hoping Fleury can bounce back strong in 2010 as he continues making the adjustment to the wood bat. He is a left-handed hitter.
Jordan Wideman struggled through an injury-plagued 2009 season and hopes for better things in 2010. Wideman started the season with the Dragons, splitting time with Coddington, but suffered a broken thumb on a collision at the plate on May 5th and was out of action for six weeks. He later moved to Single-A Sarasota. Between the two clubs, Wideman appeared in 45 games and batted .201 with no homers and nine runs batted in (134 at-bats). Wideman was the Reds 11th round draft pick in 2007 out of high school in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and he is still only 21 years old. Defensively, he has solid receiving skills and throws the ball well.
The Reds acquired left-handed hitting catcher Chase Weems from the Yankees for major league utility man Jerry Hairston, Jr. at the trade deadline on July 31st. Weems was a sixth round draft pick by the Yankees out of Columbus (Ga.) High School in 2007. Prior to the trade, Weems played with Charleston in the South Atlantic League (same classification as the Dragons in the Midwest League). He hit .260 with 1 HR and 14 RBI (173 AB). After the trade, he struggled with the Dragons, batting .179-0-5 (67 AB). Weems bats from the left side of the plate.
Chris McMurray has impressed enough observers with his defensive skills that he was named as the best defensive catcher in the Reds organization after the 2009 season by Baseball America. McMurray was the Reds' 18th round draft pick out of the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2008. McMurray hit .235 at Billings last season in 26 games but did show some power with three home runs in 85 at-bats. McMurray hit .312 in his final season at UCSB in 2008 and hopes to improve his offense in 2010.
Trey Manz was the Reds 26th round draft pick in 2009 out of the University of South Florida. He had the best season offensively of any of the catching candidates, batting a combined .310 with 5 HR and 11 RBI in 87 at-bats while posting a .552 slugging percentage in 28 games between Billings and the Gulf Coast League Reds. Manz hit .293 last spring as the 2nd Team All-Big East catcher at South Florida and added six home runs in 46 games. In 2007, Manz played on the junior college national championship team with Chipola College and drilled a home run in the title game. Manz is from the same hometown as Weems but played at a rival high school in Columbus, Georgia. Like Weems and Fleury, Manz is a left-handed hitter.
2009 Dragons Catchers
Kevin Coddington: Expected to play at Single-A Lynchburg in 2010.
Kyle Day: Also expected to play at Lynchburg as a left fielder/catcher/designated hitter and could challenge for a spot with Double-A Carolina.
Jordan Wideman: In the mix for a job with Dayton or Lynchburg in 2010.
Chase Weems: Also in the mix with Dayton or Lynchburg.
Humberto Sosa: Released by the Reds following the 2009 season.
Jake Long: Will battle for a spot with Double-A Carolina or Lynchburg in 2010.