Hey, who wants to catch for the Phillies this season? Currently, the Phils roster lists Rod Barajas, Ryan Budde, Chris Coste, and Carlos Ruiz as those competing for spot in 2007. Let’s go ahead and eliminate Budde from the list of potential starters. That leaves us with a situation we saw often last year, Coste and Ruiz plus one or two other guys splitting backstop duties. Now, none of these guys jump off the screen and scream franchise catcher: Coste turned 34 on Sunday, Ruiz is a 28-year old rookie and Barajas is 31. Coste was the feel-good story of last season and put up some useful numbers late in the season. He batted .329 with 7 homers and 22 RBIs from July to September. Barajas put up similar numbers with the Rangers last year, but with a much lower batting average. Ruiz is the youngest of the lot and thus has more potential to be an everyday catcher and long-term member of the team. I think the job is Ruiz’s to lose. But that’s not the point here today. This catcher controversy stems from the fact that the Phillies have a depleted farm system.
Two recent articles have highlighted a point many of us have suspected for a while. First up, Keith Law from ESPN Insider ranks the Phillies minor league system 29th out of the 30 MLB teams:
29. Philadelphia: Thin system which got thinner by the sudden rise of Cole Hamels. The closest solid-average prospect to the majors here is Carlos Carrasco, who spent the year in low-A.
Sounds promising…Perhaps the Phillies farm system is ranked so poorly because it is one of the oldest in baseball? That’s what Baseball Prospectus says in study on the average age of farm systems. The Phillies’ minor league system is the 27th most youthful in baseball.
The Phillies were third [oldest], at +.58, thanks largely to Reading, the oldest minor-league club in baseball relative to their level. Interestingly enough, the second- and third-oldest minor-league teams were Altoona and Bowie, meaning the top three were all in the Eastern League.
The major league team is the 23rd youngest. Neither of these are good statistics.
There is hope however behind the plate. The Phillies have a stable of young catchers in the minor league system. Unfortunately, none of them will likely make an impact this season. So it will be up to Ruiz, Barajas and occasionaly Chris Coste. Carlos Ruiz will hopefully receive the majority of starts this season giving him the chance to prove that he is the Phillies catcher of the near-to-mid future. If he does not succeed, the Phillies will be in this same predicament next year.