Ladies and gentlemen I hope you are ready for a big secret. Hopefully, you all still love and adore me (who am I kidding; I’m great) after this but I like catching prospects. Like, I really like myself a good defensive catching prospect – move over Zach Collins lol. Before we get too deep into the bashing of Zach Collins defensive skills – because he could be a very good fantasy option – let’s instead talk about a catching prospect whose Major League affiliate is also based in Chicago (that ladies and gentleman is what we call a segway in the business) in Miguel Amaya.
Amaya was signed from the 2015 J2 crop for around (Dr. Evil voice) $1,000,000 by the Chicago Cubs. At the time of the signing, it was noted how teams loved the work ethic of the young man from Panama and many projected him to be able to develop into an intriguing catching prospect that could play in Wrigley Field someday. Those intangibles and makeup comments hold up today, as Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development for the Chicago Cubs, said to Patrick Mooney of Baseball America, said this, “We absolutely think that he’s got the skill set and intangibles to be a frontline starter.”
One of the most important things a catcher must do in today’s game (if you ask me) is “steal” strikes for his pitcher or frame for the umpire. Miguel Amaya consistently displays quick wrists, which is one of the characteristics talent evaluators look for in catching prospects who could develop into elite framers and will move the glove quick enough as to not tip off the ump. He also positions his glove in spots that make it a quick flick of the wrist to present the pitch as a strike to the umpire. We all see how important is to help your pitcher out and Miguel Amaya should quickly ingratiate himself to any team that has him because of his ability to turn borderline calls into strikes for his pitchers.
In order to become a major league catcher you have to be able to cover the balls in front of you, whether that’s blocking balls in the dirt or scooping balls to make a quick throw to first. When it comes to blocking balls in the dirt, it is very effortless for Amaya, as he is comfortable going from his left to his right to block a ball that bounces in the dirt. When a ball is hit weakly in front of him he showcases his bonkers baseball IQ charging the ball well and getting in position to help his first baseman not have to make a difficult play.
His arm might be the “weakest” part of his defensive tools, but that is not to say he has a noodle arm like your’s truly. In fact, with some gains, it could very well become a plus arm. While his arm is not currently plus, Amaya has impeccable footwork and position allows his arm to play up. As it currently stands Miguel Amaya is throwing base runners out at a 52.33% clip (45/86). His arm could easily become plus as it’s one of those tools that could be improved upon relatively easily just by adding some more bulk to his 6’1”, 185-pound frame or, as the kids say, get yolked.
Not only will Amaya showcase all the tools to be a plus defensive catcher at maturity, but he also has really begun to make himself into an above average offensive catcher as well, thanks to a complete reinvention of his batted ball profile over the past couple of seasons. Check out the chart below. It’s not on the level of my co-host and co-lead prospect analyst Connor’s charts, but that guy is pretty smart (don’t tell him I said that I don’t need or want to inflate that guy’s ego).
|Year||Fly Ball %||Line Drive %||Ground Ball%|
Since coming stateside, Miguel Amaya has gone under a transformation of sorts thanks to a complete change in his batted ball profile. He has only been stateside since the 2016 season and back then his batted ball profile tells us he hit the ball on the ground a lot and didn’t get the ball in the air. In his 242 plate appearances in 2016 he hit a grand total of one home run but then things began to change for him when he started his 2017 season. In 244 plate appearances he tripled his home run total and if you look up at the nifty chart I created you can see he cut down his ground ball rate and his line drive rate and begun to get the ball in the air more. Then this season started and we began to see him get the ball in the air more and with a very healthy increase in his fly ball rate he already has 12 home runs in 395 plate appearances and has begun to hit the ball on the ground below 40% of the time. Those quick wrists I referenced early when I talked about I thought he could become a good framer also carries over into his swing as he consistently makes good contact.
To speak of his power during the most recent Futures game the young catcher was chosen to represent the Chicago Cubs and he really surprised elevators at the game with his round of batting practice with J.J. Cooper of Baseball America saying that he had the most impressive round of batting practice with a group involving stud prospects such as Fernando Tatis and the recently called up Luis Urias. Cooper said when asked the most impressive round of BP: “Miguel Amaya, Cubs. Yes, Amaya only hit one home run, but it was the longest of the five and he also hit a pair of rocket shots to center field that almost cleared a 15-foot high fence.”
Power is not the only thing that has helped Amaya hit new heights offensively, as he doubled his walk rate from 2017 to 2018 and has done a good job of cutting down the strikeout totals. In 2017, Amaya was walking under 5% of his plate appearances (4.5%) and was striking out 20.1% of his plate appearances. When the calendar switched to 2018, he not only was promoted to Low-A, but he also increased his walk rate, now walking in 10.3% of his plate appearances, and actually striking in just 19.4% of his plate appearances.
Now I could talk about he might be blocked by one of the games best catchers but that’s not why we are here because that’s a bummer. Miguel Amaya has quickly become one of my favorite prospects because he is a near lock to stick as a catcher and his offensive game has really come a long way since becoming a professional baseball player as we have seen his wRC+ go up from 71 in 2017 to 117 in 2018. Here’s some free fantasy advice in leagues that 200+ prospects are kept: go scoop this guy up. He’s gotta be better than someone in your minors.
Photo Credit: http://www.chicagonow.com/