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2021 Position Previews: Catcher

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Baseball season starts today with a home series against Wright State. I will write position previews once per day on: 1) Starting Pitching, 2) Relief Pitching, 3) Infield, 4) Outfield, and 5) Catchers.

Colorado Rockies v New York Mets
Yes, I used a picture of golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez in a baseball jersey. No one at Getty took pictures of our catcher, C.J. “Chi Chi” Rodriguez last year.
Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Unlike first base, which has competition without an entrenched starter, catcher has a clear returning starter, but Chi Chi will face some top competition as we have recruited extremely well at the position. As always, our depth at the position is a really good problem to have.

Catcher

Returning Starter

#5 So. C CJ “Chi Chi” Rodriguez

(.289/.370/.356 with 3 2Bs and 8 RBI)

#5 (the number Corbs gives to starting catchers) So. C CJ “Chi Chi” Rodriguez did look like a future stud last year, both behind the plate and at the dish (.289/.370/.356). In 2020, he found himself in pretty much a 50-50 split with senior Ty Duvall. He looked like a natural receiver, framed the ball well, and was able to block the nasty spike sliders our pitching staff throws his way. The one area he could improve upon is pop time, so as to keep runners glued to first base (but this is nearly always the main thing young catchers need to improve upon).

I have to assume Chi-Chi catches most of our games this year. He will have to hold off the charge from three other Commodore catching prospects, of course.

The Top Competition

#16 Fr. UTL Jack “Whitey” Bulger

Perhaps the most exciting of the three is #16 Fr. Jack “Whitey” Bulger, as he was the #35 overall high school prospect in his draft class (and the #4 catcher). Frankly, we were lucky to get him to campus, and last year’s 5 round truncated MLB draft certainly helped us out. At the moment, he’s listed as UTL rather than C on the roster, but we could be reading too much into that. Rather, similar to Dom Keegan, Bulger’s carrying tool is expected to be his power bat. As such, the UTL designation likely means that Corbs is going to try to get Bulger’s bat in the lineup, no matter the position. Expect him to be in the mix at DH and 1B when he’s not behind the plate.

Bulger can muscle anything over the fencing they’ve got set up. The exit velocity off his bat is an eye-popping 105mph. He’s going to have a tough time taking catching reps from C.J. “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, but he’s got the power bat to get early ABs at 1st and DH.

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Jack Bulger is a 2020 C/RHP/3B with a 6-0 205 lb. frame from Bowie, MD who attends Dematha Catholic. Very strong and athletic build, pretty mature physically, especially strong lower half. 6.79 runner, is very quick behind the plate, stays low and flexible in his set up, gets rid of the ball very quickly with plus arm strength, very clean overall actions, definitely has the physical tools to stay behind the plate defensively. Right handed hitter, rotational hitter with good use of his strong hips, line drive swing plane with a bit of lift out front, makes loud and hard contact with excellent exit velocity speeds, works the middle of the field and repeats his mechanics and timing well. Well rounded tool set for a catcher. Very good student, verbal commitment to Vanderbilt. Named to play in the Perfect Game All-American Classic.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 10.

#55 So. C Max “Power” Romero, Jr.

(DNP)

Fellow sophomore catcher #55 Max “Power” Romero, Jr. did not play in 2020, but looked more than able to hold his own in Fall Ball.

#45 Fr. C Alan Espinal

The other name to watch is #45 Fr. C Alan Espinal. Of course, he may well redshirt, as our team, once again, is loaded.

Here’s what Perfect Game has to say about him:

Alan Espinal is a 2020 C with a 5-11 165 lb. frame from Viera, FL who attends Viera. Slender young catcher’s build with plenty of room to get stronger. 6.72 runner, very flexible and quick behind the plate, big raw arm strength, looks like a middle infielder and has a middle infielder’s athleticism but can become a high level defensive catcher. Right handed hitter, has a short and quick line drive swing, high contact approach, occasional downhill angle, will over stride at time, fundamental base to keep improving offensively with additional strength. Interesting athlete who should keep getting better. Very good student.

MLB.com Top 200 Ranking: Unranked.

Perfect Game Rating: 9.5.