The past few days, the Rays’ depth at the catcher position has taken a major hit. The Rays entered the season with five catchers on their 40-man roster, but that quickly whittled down to just 3 as Stephen Vogt and Robinson Chirinos were designated for assignment to add Jamey Wright and Shelley Duncan onto the Rays’ roster and subsequently traded to the Athletics and Rangers respectively for players to be named later or cash. It may not seem that important to have more than three catchers on the 40-man roster, but the situation was dire enough that Chris Gimenez‘s backup at Triple-A Durham was Craig Albernaz, who’s an active player but really more of a roving instructor helping out pitchers and catchers than a player that’s supposed to be catching once or twice a week. The Rays had to find themselves another catcher. As it turned out, the Rangers’ acquisition of Chirinos allowed them to do just that as Marc Topkin reported that the Rays acquired catcher Juan Apodaca from them for cash consideration in a separate transaction from the Chirinos trade.
For Apodaca, 26, the Rays are his 5th organization in the last four years, but he’s actually coming his best offensive since 2005 in 2013, managing a .291/.407/.399 line with 17 doubles, 2 homers, 29 RBI, and a 40-40 strikeout to walk ratio in 83 games and 258 plate appearances between Double-A and Triple-A in the Cubs organization. For his career, Apodaca’s career batting line is .251/.337/.368, making himself known as a light-hitting catcher with little power. One interesting thing is that Apodaca has never been known for his plate discipline, managing just a 1.88-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio for his career, but improved that to 40-40 in 2012 and even 26-22 during his time at Triple-A. Apodaca’s strikeout and walk rates were both 15.5% on the 2012 season, and the probability of those rates being better than his career averages of 19.3% and 10.2% respectively if his true rates should have remained the same were just .06 and .003, and the odds of both of them being as good as they were was just 5291 to 1. Maybe Apodaca did make an improvement to his plate discipline and that will bode well for him moving forward.
Defensively, Apodaca is a good receiver with a solid arm, throwing out 28% of attempted basestealers for his career and 24% in 2012. That’s nice, but Apodaca is in a tough place even for a big league backup role because he doesn’t really stand out for anything. His bat is OK and his defense is fine but neither incite any excitement. However, Apodaca is still pretty young and maybe his plate discipline improvement is reason for some optimism that he can be a passable big leaguer at some point. Apodaca looks to be Triple-A Durham’s backup catcher, and he won’t be overwhelmed on either side of the ball at that level and might even be capable enough to not completely implode should the Rays have a catching emergency in the major leagues. He’s far from impressive but decent all-around and should be a good depth piece in the Rays system. Acquiring Apodaca for cash alone is nice move by the Rays, and while it will likely good unnoticed the rest of the season, it’s always nice to have insurance policies in place.