Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rumor Courtesy of TBCTAT

"The Philadelphia Phillies are looking for a long-term replacement for catcher Mike Lieberthal, who can become a free agent at the end of the season. One of the young catchers the Phillies are eyeing is Pirates prospect Ronny Paulino, who is at Class AAA Indianapolis."

- The Beaver County Times Allegheny Times (or the TBCTAT as I like to call it)

There are no names attached to this rumor (click the link or just look above, whatever turns you on) from April 9th, 2006 other than Paulino’s, so it isn’t immediately clear what kind of player the Pirates would be looking for in return (though I’m just about 99% Robinson Tejeda would have been enough to get a deal done if the Phillies really wanted this guy…oh well). Paulino is a 25-year old catcher with a strong defensive reputation and an improving bat. He has always been considered to be a player capable of producing some power (strong build, long swing), but hadn’t shown it until his breakthrough performance at AAA last season. Paulino hit .315/.372/.538 with 13 homeruns in 273 at bats. He is hitting .278/.350/.389 for the AAA Indianapolis Indians so far this year.

John Sickels had this to say about Paulino in The Baseball Prospect Book 2006: “In the majors, he should be able to hit around .250 with enough power to be useful…He doesn’t have a lot left to prove at the minor league level, but I’m not sure where or how he fits into Pittsburgh’s plans. Someone should be able to use him if the Pirates can’t.” The comment about Pittsburgh not necessarily needing him touches on the catching depth the Pirates currently enjoy – they have both Ryan Doumit (25-years old as well, in fact he is only 18 days older than Paulino) and 27-year old Humberto Cota battling for at bats on the big league roster. They also spent their 2004 first round pick on a catcher (and Pittsburgh native) Neil Walker. Walker is seen as the long-term future at catcher by some though many outsiders don’t necessarily believe he’ll stick at catcher over the long haul.

Any way you slice it, catching is a definite organizational strength for that other team in Pennsylvania…they are deep enough at the spot to turn a talented young player like Paulino into a valuable trading chip. John Sickels believes Paulino could be a .250 hitter in the majors, but Baseball Prospectus is a tad more optimistic. Their projection system has Paulino as a player capable of hitting .265/.321/.415 with 12 homers in 452 plate appearances in the majors right now – a fairly similar comp to what the same projection system forecasts for Mike Lieberthal in 2006 (.267/.332/.416 with 11 homers in 414 plate appearances). This is of course a highly inexact science, but food for thought nonetheless.

Robinson Tejeda would almost certainly been enough to bring Paulino to Philly. Heck, even Jake Blalock could have been used in attempt to land him. Unfortunately, both of those options are long gone, so the Phillies will have to think of something else to make it work. As a point of reference, John Sickels has Paulino as the ninth best prospect in the Pirates system while Baseball America has him at number thirteen on their list. Without knowing exactly what the Pirates are currently seeking to add to their roster, some logical names that could be involved include minor leaguer second baseman Tim Moss (though his horrible AA start doesn’t help his value any), lefty Eude Brito, or reliever Yoel Hernandez.

The Phillies long-term outlook at catcher is a bit confusing. Mike Lieberthal figures to be gone after the 2006 season even though Phils top catching prospect Jason Jaramillo (in AA now) isn’t believed to be ready to take over the full-time job at that point. Carlos Ruiz may or may not be viewed by the organization as being able to hold down the job as a one year stopgap due to his checkered medical past and the simple fact the Phillies just don’t seem all that high on him. Paulino would potentially be able to step right in as a rookie in 2007 and start for the ballclub while also adding depth to the position depending on the futures of Ruiz, Jaramillo, and Louis Marson. This may have just been a small rumor in the Beaver County Times, but it is something to be remembered as the Phillies begin the inevitable search for a starting catcher for the 2007 season.


Blogger Adam said...

Just reading headlines around the league and I'm beginning to pickup on the neg. press Philly is putting out on Manuel & Co. I know its a rough start, but c'mon. If a managerial change was to be made who would want based on availability?

You know it's about time for another Art Howe or Davey Johnson appearence.

3:31 PM  

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