Back in 2012, I had the privilege of sitting down and meeting Tribe High-A prospect Tony Wolters, who was a young, hard-working middle infield prospect who was in the infancy stage of switching positions from shortstop to second base back then. The organization was making the position move for one of their top 10 young stars because of a massive logjam that was forming at the shortstop position when they drafted super-phenom Francisco Lindor.
Fast forward a year later from that time and the Indians were again moving Wolters around the diamond, this time behind the plate. The organization was extremely top-heavy at the catching position and could allow Wolters to take his time growing into the position. As we embark on 2015, Wolters has spent the majority of his time over the past three years working on his latest change and this may finally be the season where his hard work pays off.
As it was back in 2013, the Cleveland Indians organization is still extremely top-heavy at the catching position. Major League starter Yan Gomes is quickly becoming one of the game’s elite catchers, noted by his 2014 Silver Slugger Award. Behind Gomes will certainly be Roberto Perez, the 26-year old backup who impressed in his first Major League action in 2014. In any emergency situation, the projected starting first baseman Carlos Santana would likely be thrown back into catching action.
Behind those three, the catching organizational ranks get pretty thin or young after that. The 19 year old sensation Francisco Mejia has impressed at the lower levels of the organization, but Mejia’s Major League contributions are still years away. Veterans Adam Moore and Brett Hayes both have some Major League experience, but neither of them have anything that could be defined as “steady” Major League time. Those two catchers should be viewed only as organizational depth, as both are already north of 30 years old, and will likely battle for the primary time at AAA Columbus.
After Moore and Hayes, Wolters will likely start the season at AA Akron—probably starting at catcher ahead of Jake Lowery. Wolters is younger and more polished with his bat than Lowery and has worked hard enough to be considered one of the better defensive catchers in the organization as well. Wolters will likely see some time at Columbus once he proves himself capable…if not some time in Cleveland.
Wolters’ potential date with the Indians this season would likely be all about luck and timing. A decrease in productivity or injury to Perez—or, God forbid, an injury to Gomes—in the mid-to-late summer could have Wolters as the next available man up. With previous years of Major League samples, the Tribe likely knows what it has in both Moore and Hayes. This would likely leave Wolters as the more attractive option should the situation deem itself necessary.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer