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  • Converting to catcher at minor league level?

    Recently a number of threads in different forums have discussed the toll of defense on catchers and its effect on their performance. And of course the shortage of top quality catching talent is always a fan concern.

    I was wondering . . . Since catching is uncomfortable, often painful, and sure to shorten one's season and career, I imagine that most people who hit well enough to play somewhere else, play somewhere else. (Though I can see how some players would love it.) Since most players who eventually sign MLB contracts were stars all along, I'd imagine that few of them were catchers throughout their youth. Is this the case?

    Anyway, I was wondering, there must be a huge number of players who find when they reach the minors that they don't hit quite well enough to DH or play first, third, or the corner outfield, and they are too slow to play the infield or center. So I would think there'd be a large pool of potential catchers, eager to convert, if the choice were to try catching or go home. Say a slow college slugger with a decent arm who projects to hit .250 with 12 homers and maybe draw 50-60 walks. Maybe a quadruple-A LF, 1b, and DH, but a potential second-string all-star as a catcher. Or even .220, 8 HR, and 40 walks, good enough to back-up catch, but not to do anything else.

    Is converting at that age really difficult? Or does it happen a lot, but the results aren't as great as I would think. As coaches and teachers of catching, what's your opinion? Why are there so many not-quite-good-enough sluggers, and so few good-enough catchers.
    Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

  • #2
    At the youth level the positional scarcity principle doesn't really apply. usually the best hitters will be middle infielders or pitchers and sometimes catchers. this is because usually the best athletes play at those position and the fat or unathletic kids are hidden in the OF and 1B (not that I think this is good but it often happens).

    On top of this many parents try to put their kid at C or SS because that means his chances to be drafted higher are bigger. for this reason harpers parents made him a catcher. this is because the competition in hitting is not as strong there.


    At the MLB level this reverses for a couple of reasons (corner guys have bigger bodies and it is rare that someone is great at fielding and hitting since both are somewhat independent traits). but I guarantee that most MLB first basemen and RFers did not play 1B/RF at 10U ball.
    Usually the get converted somewhere in HS or even later. many 1B have been drafted as 3B (thome, Edgar, Pujols...)

    To answer your question:
    yes there have been guys converted to catcher. posey and posada have been middle infielders.

    however catcher is usually not the position were you want to hide a bad fielder because opponents can punish you in a lot of ways.guys like posada and Vmart have been offensive catchers but they are about borderline on what you can tolerate.
    I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

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    • #3
      Yes, it's definitely a great choice in the circumstances you mentioned. Pro guys often try to convert people to catcher but without success. It's not that easy and a lot of guys fail or don't stick with it. Super speed doesn't always translate into great base stealing/base running, etc. etc.etc.
      Major Figure

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      • #4
        Catching is more than just sitting behind the plate. I think you will find the vast majority of players out there don't have the combination of physical and mental toughness to play that position on a daily basis.

        If you don't LOVE the position, you are never going to want to put in the work required to be even just a "serviceable" catcher. A catcher that isn't any good is going to absolutely cost his team by not receiving properly - therefore costing his pitcher strikes, not blocking balls in the dirt - therefore losing the pitchers confidence, and not having solid throwdowns - therefore giving up free bases.

        There is little more frustrating to a pitcher than giving up a walk on a borderline pitch called a ball because the catcher didn't frame it well, then have that runner steal second on a slow pop, then have him get to third on a curve buried in the dirt that should have been blocked.

        That's why good catchers can be crappy hitters, but good hitters can't be crappy catchers.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
          Recently a number of threads in different forums have discussed the toll of defense on catchers and its effect on their performance. And of course the shortage of top quality catching talent is always a fan concern.

          I was wondering . . . Since catching is uncomfortable, often painful, and sure to shorten one's season and career, I imagine that most people who hit well enough to play somewhere else, play somewhere else. (Though I can see how some players would love it.) Since most players who eventually sign MLB contracts were stars all along, I'd imagine that few of them were catchers throughout their youth. Is this the case?

          Anyway, I was wondering, there must be a huge number of players who find when they reach the minors that they don't hit quite well enough to DH or play first, third, or the corner outfield, and they are too slow to play the infield or center. So I would think there'd be a large pool of potential catchers, eager to convert, if the choice were to try catching or go home. Say a slow college slugger with a decent arm who projects to hit .250 with 12 homers and maybe draw 50-60 walks. Maybe a quadruple-A LF, 1b, and DH, but a potential second-string all-star as a catcher. Or even .220, 8 HR, and 40 walks, good enough to back-up catch, but not to do anything else.

          Is converting at that age really difficult? Or does it happen a lot, but the results aren't as great as I would think. As coaches and teachers of catching, what's your opinion? Why are there so many not-quite-good-enough sluggers, and so few good-enough catchers.
          Jack,
          IMO I found there are several types of catchers:

          1. Those who can, but do not like it and want to play elsewhere.
          2. Those who do because either the team needs them there or it provides a greater opportunity to play.
          3. Those who are...

          Everychild should be giving the opportunity to play everywhere, include behind the mask. Let them experience every aspect of the game from different positions...
          That said - Not everyone can be a catcher - it takes a certain strength, personality, leadership ability, and then skill to do so properly. This all usually sorts itself out before they are playing on the big field... Most who burn out early are usually those who do not meet one of the above criteria... A catcher can do his job for a very long time if he posesses the above and the work ethic necessary .. Posada comes to mind

          Catching is THE most undertaught position on the field. My good friend Dave Weaver saw this when his sons where coming up and dedicated a good part of his life rectifying this situation... He and his son Jay developed the best catching training information available.

          It is my opinion, regardless of the category listed above each and every child should be properly taught... If you are looking for further info I suggest you contact Jay.
          "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
          - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
          Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

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          • #6
            There are guys who switch to catcher late. Buster Posey switched to catcher after his soph season in college. He was an All-American shortstop. Another All-American shortstop transferrred in. The catcher had just graduated. Posey volunterred to switch. Bob Boone caught the second most games in MLB history. He was an All-American third baseman. He switched in the minors. A friend's son tried to switch to add versatility to being a 2b,3b, rf, lf utility player. The organization sent him to the Arizona Fall Instructional League. He nearly got killed catching MLB prospects and gave up for safety reasons.

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            • #7
              also you need a tremendously strong arm at C. catchers often have the strongest arm of all position players on the field. you need a pitchers arm to catch (jason motte was a catcher and now the throws close to 100 now).
              I now have my own non commercial blog about training for batspeed and power using my training experience in baseball and track and field.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by ralanprod View Post

                If you don't LOVE the position, you are never going to want to put in the work required to be even just a "serviceable" catcher.
                Agree with your post, except for this quote, with regard to HS-level and below (as opposed to converting to catching at upper levels--the original thread topic).

                I've seen a number of non-catchers--especially shortstops-- fill in at the catcher position and do very well at receiving, blocking, and throwing.

                IOW, HS-level and below, the best catcher on you team could possibly be your SS, without ever having worked at it at all.

                Extraordinary baseball athletes can prove to be the exception to the rule.

                But as a general rule, ralanprod, I do agree with you that becoming a good catcher requires work.
                Last edited by skipper5; 10-18-2012, 10:41 AM.
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                • #9
                  My league age 14 son is the starting catcher on a 15u team. The only reason he made the team is because he specializes at catcher and bats lefty, naturally (and well). He's been playing catcher almost exclusively for about 3-4 years and LOVES it, especially now that he calls the pitches and helps run the defense. But it is a very challenging position to play, you have to be tough, durable, have great stamina, be very smart, and (of course) skill behind the plate. There is just so much to learn. My son takes an advanced class or two every year. Oh yeah, being a good batter with power is a huge plus, but a superior defensive catcher might get the nod over another catcher who hits better.

                  I also think the position is under-taught as a rule, and usually under appreciated. Playing it at the LL level does not take an excessive amount of skill, but striving to get better and stronger on the big diamond is a challenge many kids just don't want to attempt.

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                  • #10
                    I couldn't convince my son not to catch as a preteen. In 13U travel he played whatever position the pitcher came from. He was the shortstop on his middle school team. Once he wasn't catching much he wanted nothing to do with it. By thirteen he was tired of getting beat up by foul balls. In 8th grade the high school varsity coach asked the middle school coach to have my son catch half a game. Afterwards the varsity coach told my son he had a chance to start as a freshman if he caught. My son wanted no part of it. He was afraid he would get stuck catching four years. My son started at short and center on the JV team as a freshman and short on varsity as a soph before being switched to center. The previous year's starting varsity third baseman was converted to catcher. He did a decent job. But he hated catching.

                    I never wanted my son catching due to his speed and what crouching does to legs. I knew he would take a pounding from foul balls as players got older and bat speed increased. By the end of LL all-stars (they went to states) he lost all his power because his arms were so banged up. He suffered a concussion from a wild back swing from a hitter catching him in the back of the head with his bat.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for your replies, all. Very illuminating. If I were a parent, I'd be very concerned if my kid wanted to catch because of the long-term medical issues (and possible short-term).

                      That's why I had in mind the situation where a player groomed for high level play finds at the minor league level he's not going to make it unless he converts. The price is so high and the determination to succeed so important.

                      This background is ttemendously interesting and helpful. Thanks.
                      Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

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                      • #12
                        Jorge Posada was drafted as a second baseman. It's not unheard of to switch to catcher at the minor league level. If anything, it may be beneficial, because it could lead to less wear and tear on the knees.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pstein View Post
                          Jorge Posada was drafted as a second baseman. It's not unheard of to switch to catcher at the minor league level. If anything, it may be beneficial, because it could lead to less wear and tear on the knees.
                          i.e. switching later rather than starting out as a catcher may be beneficial, right? Not catching instead of playing second base.
                          Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pstein View Post
                            Jorge Posada was drafted as a second baseman. It's not unheard of to switch to catcher at the minor league level. If anything, it may be beneficial, because it could lead to less wear and tear on the knees.
                            i.e. switching later rather than starting out as a catcher may be beneficial, right? Not catching instead of playing second base.
                            Indeed the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already; so that no blight can so surely arrest all intellectual growth as the blight of cocksureness.--CS Peirce

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Jackaroo Dave View Post
                              i.e. switching later rather than starting out as a catcher may be beneficial, right? Not catching instead of playing second base.
                              I doubt it would be more beneficial. Converting to pitcher later might be more beneficial since you might be avoiding giving a coach a crack at ruining somebody's arm. Catching, on the other hand, is a pretty intricate position. Better to start them when they are young and stupid and don't know any better.

                              Again, for the kids and parents out there-it is a great choice to play the catcher position because it greatly increases one's odds of advancing. I've seen many relatively modestly athletic kids advance to higher levels than they would have otherwise advanced to. A cannon for an arm is not necessarily required either. Nor is awesome hitting ability.
                              Major Figure

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