People have been clamoring for the Tampa Bay Rays to acquire a backup catcher for a while now. Finally they have–only he’ll be the backup at High-A Charlotte, not the major leagues. The Rays have sent a player to be named later or cash to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for catcher Mike Marjama, as reported by Marc Topkin.
Marjama, 25, hit to a .266/.292/.383 line with 16 doubles, 3 homers, and 17 RBI in 262 plate appearances at Chicago’s High-A Winston-Salem affiliate in 2014. He also threw out 30% of attempted basestealers while cutting his passed balls from 13 in 2013 to just 2 last season. Marjama, a converted third baseman, has good potential defensively but a quite questionable bat. That sounds a lot like every other catching prospect ever.
Marjama does have a few ways to differentiate himself, though. His story is interesting as he dealt with a bout of anorexia in his junior year of high school after he started losing weight for wrestling. It was bad enough that when he went to nearby Sacramento City College, he needed to work hard simply to make their team–not exactly the typical case with most pro baseball players.
However, Marjama managed to find himself at SCC and earn a transfer to Evan Longoria‘s alma mater, Long Beach State. Along the way, he was a Northwoods League All-Star before the White Sox selected him in the 23rd round of the 2011 MLB Draft. It is impressive that Marjama got this far, and he will hope to continue moving up as he joins the Rays organization.
Evidently, the Rays decided that Marjama was a better fit to be an organizational backup than someone like Jake DePew or Lucas Bailey. That makes sense given that he has actually done some hitting in his career (.681 OPS) unlike either one of them (.555 and .622 OPS respectively). Marjama also brings the versatility to play the infield corners, and the Rays may teach him the outfield corners as well.
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With Oscar Hernandez still property of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Rays need a backup for Armando Araiza at High-A Charlotte and Marjama is likely their guy. If Hernandez returns as hoped, Marjama could back up Mac James at Low-A Bowling Green and just maybe move up to a higher affiliate after someone like Curt Casali or Justin O’Conner gets promoted a level. Even if there is no obvious spot at any point, though, his positional flexibility will help the Rays get him at-bats.
Organizational catcher is far from the most glamorous role, but these types of players are key as the Rays hope to develop their pitching prospects. Hopefully Mike Marjama can be a good influence on his teammates, and given his decent bat, improving defense, and strong versatility, a call-up in the future is still something to which he can aspire.