At this point, it is fairly obvious to everyone that knows baseball that the Rays need a catcher. So, when one potentially comes available, the Rays would be amongst the teams that would be linked to that player. This week, the catcher du jour would be Nick Hundley.
Hundley was recently sent down to the Tuscon Padres of the Pacific Coast League to make room for the promotion of Yasmani Grandal, the Padres catcher of the future. At the time of his demotion, Hundley had a slash line of only .166/.226/.259, after beginning the season 0 for his first 21. These numbers hardly inspire confidence.
So, why would the Rays be interested in acquiring another catcher that cannot hit? Well, unlike the options presently on the roster, Hundley does have some history of success. Last season, he hit at a .288/.347/.477 rate with 9 home runs and 16 doubles. However, Hundley also struck out 74 times in 308 plate appearances, while only drawing 22 walks. He has a tendency to chase pitches outside the zone, having struck out 318 times in 1333 career plate appearances. Yet, his his ability to hit for power and the solid 2011 campaign do show that he could be an upgrade.
Hundley has also developed into a good defensive catcher. At the time of his demotion, he led the National League in runners caught stealing, after ranking second last year. He was amongst the league leaders in assists, range factor, and total zone runs. He was also leading in stolen bases against (opponents have attempted to steal a base 79 times against the Padres with Hundley behind the plate) which may be more of an indictment on the pitching staff’s inability to hold runners on.
Even though Hundley had signed a three year, $9Million contract with a team option for 2015, he became expendable when the Padres traded for Grandal. Given his struggles this year, he could potentially be acquired without giving up more than a lower level prospect. Hundley, with his defensive ability and minimal contract, may be an option for the Rays to solidify the catching position.