I recently had the opportunity to chat with Seattle Mariners prospect Vinnie Catricala who was rated the M’s 9th best prospect entering the 2012 season by Baseball America. Similarly prospect guru John Sickles had Catricala rated as the 6th best prospect in the Mariners farm system and mentioned that while his defense is an area to improve upon, his bat is above average and should play at the Major League level.
Catricala, 23, has struggled to duplicate the success he had in 2011 which is understandable as he posted an outstanding line of .341/.421/.601 with 25 home runs, 106 RBI, and 17 stolen base across High-A and Double-A. He received his second All-Star game appearance and was recognized as the Seattle Mariners MiLB Offensive MVP. He earned a promotion to Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League to start the 2012 season and has a .234/.298/.351 line with 9 home runs and 54 RBI through 108 games.
Despite his low average Catricala’s 54 RBI are second on his team and a good indication that he is more than capable of driving in runners and of being an offensive force. Additionally, some of his struggles can be explained by his career low BABIP of .264 which is the 4th lowest in the Pacific Coast League among qualified players. His low BABIP indicates that he has been extremely unlucky on the balls that he has put into play and considering the PCL average is north of .300 for qualified players there is a strong likelihood his numbers will improve. From a defensive perspective he has seen time at third base, left field, and first base which lends to his versatility and should allow him to play multiple positions down the road for the Mariners.
So without further ado lets jump into the interview!
BF: What was your favorite team growing up?
VC: The Oakland A’s
BF: What’s your favorite food?
BF: You were drafted by the Indians in 2006 in the 50th round. Did you ever consider signing and starting your career early?
VC: I was drafted so late it wouldn’t have made any sense. I would’ve been done so quick!
BF: What memories do you have of when you were selected in 2009 by the Mariners? Did you have any special gatherings?
VC: My family was all listening on the computer waiting to hear my name. When I was called it was a feeling like wait what? It didn’t seem real.
BF: What is your favorite on-field memory thus far in your professional career?
VC: Being in big league camp and hitting a home-run against the Rangers. It was crazy seeing my name on the lineup card with guys like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Adrian Beltre. I remember rounding second and heading to third on my home-run trot and seeing Adrian Beltre look at me like. It felt like a dream.
BF: You got to spend the 2012 Spring Training with the Mariners. Was that your first Spring Training invite? What was that experience like?
VC: It was my first invite and it was awesome. I felt like a kid. The atmosphere and overall treatment was top notch. Great place to play. The competitiveness is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I loved it.
BF: What is your pre-game routine like?
VC: I’m not superstitious or anything. I’d say the one thing I try and do everyday is eat a good breakfast. I try and stay loose and smile as much as I can. Just try and have fun up to and leading into the game
BF: Of all of the minor league ballparks you have played at which has been your favorite?
VC: Playing in Dayton, Ohio when I was in Low-A was hands down the craziest place I’ve played at in minor league ball. Great park and lots of fans. It was really loud!
BF: In 2011 you earned Mariners Minor League Player of the Year Award. What was that season like for you? When did it sink it that 2011 was a special season?
VC: That season was a blur. I felt locked in and in the zone the entire season. That unconscious feeling. I can’t explain how I did the things I did but every athlete knows what I’m talking about. It sank in for me when I got home and saw all my friends and family! That’s when I knew it was over and time to prepare for the upcoming year.
BF: How do you mentally prepare for the grueling minor league season? (especially after a great 2011 season).
VC: You just have to accept that’s it’s going to be long. It is important to take it game by game. At-bat by at-bat and pitch by pitch. The main thing that helps me is to establish a routine and sticking to it throughout the season.
BF: What is the difference between the pitching you see in Class-A to Class-AA to Class-AAA?
VC: Each level you go up the command of pitches gets that much better. The same pitches are at every level but the control and command gets even better the higher you go up. Pitchers make less and less mistakes. This year has been the biggest adjustment year for me.
BF: Recently, longtime Mariners icon, Ichiro Suzuki was traded to the Yankees. In your time in the Mariners organization did you ever have any interaction with him? Any fun stories?
VC: A few. Generally I tried to keep clear of him and stay out of his way. I definitely was a little star struck when I saw him around the clubhouse. Once I accidentally stepped on his bat during a pregame stretch and he is really protective of his bats. When I saw it was Ichiro’s I quickly changed stretching lines and pretended like nothing happened.
BF: If you were a scout what would you say are some areas that you need to improve?
VC: I need to improve on my defense. There is always room for improvement there. Also I need to focus on staying within myself in different situations. Sometimes I get caught up in trying to do too much.
BF: You have seen some time at both corner infield positions and left field. How do you think this helps you as a player at the next level?
VC: It helps greatly because if I’m hitting then they have to keep me in the lineup. It helps because it makes me versatile and gives the managers more options for where to play me.
BF: Lastly, what kind of player should Mariners fan’s expect to see once you reach Seattle?
VC: The same guy they see in the minor leagues. I’m not a flashy player. I try and take care off business and do what I know how to do. Baseball is a humbling sport so I figure if you are humble all the time when it does get tough it doesn’t seem that bad and you’re able to bounce back quicker.