Name: Vinnie Catricala
Position: Third base/First base/Left field
Notable 2011 Stats: .351/.421/.574 with 19 2B, 1 3B, 14 HR, 45/33 K/BB, and 8-for-11 SB in 71 games with High Desert (High-A);
.347/.420/.632 with 29 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 47/24 K/BB, and 9-for-10 SB in 62 games with Jackson (AA);
.349/.421/.601 with 48 2B, 4 3B, 25 HR, 92/57 K/BB, and 17-for-21 SB in 133 games total
Why He’s This High: Like #60 prospect Tom Milone, Catricala had a banner 2011; it wouldn’t be hard to make a case that Milone was the minors’ top pitcher and Catricala was the minors’ top hitter, from a purely statistical perspective.
One can be skeptical of Catricala’s performance in High-A, as it came in the hitter-friendly Cal League (with High Desert as his home park, at that), but he actually improved when he went to the more neutral Southern League. He ripped 43 extra-base hits in just 62 games at the level, showing both doubles and home run power. Catricala’s K/BB ratio did slip somewhat with the promotion, but his strikeout rate of 17% still was good enough to have him project as a high-average hitter, especially since he rips so many balls into the gaps.
He also showed some athleticism on the bases, swiping 17 bases in 21 attempts.
We should remember that this isn’t the case of a hitter beating up on inferior competition; Catricala played the entire 2011 season at age 22 and has moved fairly quickly through the minors (for a former 10th-round pick, anyway).
Why He’s This Low: Concerns about Catricala center on his defense. He played third base, first base, and left field in 2011, and didn’t distinguish himself at any of them. He’s a career .918 fielder with limited range at third, leading many to project him as a first baseman down the line. The Mariners have given him time in left field to try to stave that off, but even if he sticks there, he doesn’t project to be an asset with his glove.
That obviously means that Catricala is going to need to continue ripping the ball. In many ways, he’s something of a righthanded Lucas Duda–a prospect who remained overlooked despite excellent upper-minors batting lines due to his poor defense. It’s worth noting that Duda hit .292/.370/.482 as a rookie; it’s equally worth noting that he was worth just 0.9 WAR in 100 games due to poor defense.
Conclusions: Catricala’s hit well for his whole career, and 2011 was a breakout even above his previously established heights (.304/.388/.490 in Low-A in 2010), so while scouts remain lukewarm on his potential, I believe he’ll hit in the majors. Even at Safeco Field, his doubles-heavy approach should play well.
The big question is where he’ll play and how well. It’s possible he’ll end up at DH, though it seems odd that a player who can steal bases this well can’t even hope to become an average defensive first baseman.
Catricala could be the next Billy Butler, though, and he could be even better than that if some of his doubles turn into homers–not that his 25-HR output in 2011 was anything to be ashamed of. While scouts remain skeptical, and his defense is a major concern, his offensive output is nearing “beyond reproach” status.
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