The Tampa Bay Rays weren’t intending to get to this point, but the description for a “cliche Rays catcher” is quite clear by now. You have a guy behind the plate who pitch-frames like there’s no tomorrow and plays overall solid defense but can’t hit for his life. The Rays are still waiting for that strong all-around starting catcher, although Justin O’Conner may not be the guy either. Neither will 9th round pick Danny De La Calle–instead, he fits in perfectly with previous Rays catchers.
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De La Calle is a senior sign who just wrapped up his two-year career at Florida State after a pair of seasons at Miami-Dade Community College. His defense is excellent. He has a quick release and the arm strength to gun down plenty of attempted basestealers. He moves well behind the plate and does a solid job blocking balls in the dirt. Most importantly, he is a polished receiver who does a nice job getting his pitchers’ strikes. Take out your “cliche Rays catcher” checklist and De La Calle fills every box. He is also known for his great rapport with his starting pitchers.
At the plate, however, it is difficult to be too optimistic. His senior season at Florida State saw him hit 8 home runs, but his average was just .251 while his OBP was .293. If that wasn’t concerning enough, he struck out 65 times against just 11 walks. He struck out in 28.4% of his plate appearances overall. It’s nice that De La Calle has some power, but when you can’t manage a .300 OBP or a reasonable strikeout to walk ratio in college, that is extremely concerning. Even if you don’t believe in stats from college players, you can’t ignore numbers like that.
At the end of the day, drafting De La Calle is going to save some money and could be an investment towards developing starting pitchers. De La Calle speaks Spanish as well as English and would be an excellent guy to work with the Rays’ young arms regardless of where they are from. He may end up making contributions that won’t be visible from his statistics. And given the Rays’ luck with catchers, you never know what can happen. Maybe the prospect who didn’t hit at all in college is the one who becomes the Rays’ starter.
Danny De La Calle could not be more different than the other catcher that the Rays drafted, Chris Betts, but it would be nice if they ended up at the same level at some point in time so De La Calle could give Betts some defensive pointers. We will have to see how his own career turns out, but he will undoubtedly be a good guy to have around in the system.
Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.