Currently the Phillies have four catchers in the upper tiers of their system. Each could be playing in Philadelphia by midseason. All are also trading chips.
Carlos Ruiz: Going on 30, Ruiz had a World Series that could change perceptions. He handles the pitching staff brilliantly while offering light offense.
Chris Coste: The 33-year-old can hit, but isn’t as adept at game calling. He seems to serve much better in a backup role.
Lou Marson: Had a strong AA campaign in 2008, and by all accounts is ready to step into the big leagues. He hit his first major league home run on the last day of the ’08 season.
Jason Jaramillo: Projects more as a career backup or AAA-level catcher. At 26, he’ll be coming off an OK season in Allentown (.266 AVG, 8 HR, 39 RBI).
Helping the logjam are a slew of catching prospects — Travis D’Arnaud, Sebastian Valle — in the lower levels.
Marson is the most attractive trading chip, and while he was untouchable during the season, Ruiz’s performance and the emergence of other prospects could make Marson available.
Still, I wouldn’t do that. The time is running out on Jaramillo as a trading chip, and the Phils could possibly swing him for a middle reliever or bench player. Coste, meanwhile, should remain in the system. He could be used as an all-purpose bench player or even a tutor in Lehigh Valley, if he desires. Ruiz should remain the Opening Day catcher, but I’d start Marson in Lehigh Valley, ready for a May call-up.
Marson is the catcher of the future, no matter what happens with Valle and D’Arnaud. We know Marson can hang in the higher levels, and we know he can hit. Have him work with Coste to familiarize himself with the big league arms, then bring him in so he can catch occasionally and get some at bats. If he’s ready to start by 2010, the Phils can offer Ruiz to most teams.
By now the Phils have already denied Marson for CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Matt Holliday. There’s no reason to change the tune now: Marson is the catcher of the future, and 2009 will have to play like it.