At some point in time, the Tampa Bay Rays need to find a long term solution at catcher. Nick Ciuffo may be positioning himself to be exactly that.
This offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays finally addressed the ongoing black hole that has been the catcher position. Since the earliest days of the franchise, the catcher position has been a disaster, a place where little offensive production has come from. With the signing of Wilson Ramos, the hope is that, when healthy, he will be able to provide actual production in the lineup.
The problem is, Ramos is only signed through 2018. While Ramos will certainly be an upgrade over the usual cast of characters behind the plate, the Rays still need to find a long term solution behind the plate. However, they may have that option in the minors with former first round draft pick Nick Ciuffo.
Playing with the Montgomery Biscuits, Ciuffo appears to be having a breakout campaign. In his 123 plate appearances, Ciuffo has posted a .283/.374/.500 batting line. He has already tied a career high with his four home runs, and his 16 walks are one away from his personal best, set in 2014.
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he had already displayed the potential to be a stellar defensive catcher. In his minor league career, Ciuffo has thrown out 42% of would be basestealers, including a phenomenal 60% success rate last season. He has also displayed excellent range behind the plate, as well as a strong ability to frame pitches. His defense is on the verge of being Major League ready.
Despite being drafted as a bat first catcher, that offense has lagged behind. Likewise, his power had yet to appear, as Ciuffo had a more gap to gap approach. His compact swing was producing a solid amount of doubles, but those home runs had not come before this year.
This season, however, may be that awaited breakout. At just 22 years old, and in his second tour at AA, Ciuffo may finally be ready to show that offense the Rays had expected when he was drafted with the 21st overall pick. If the first month to the season is any indication, Ciuffo may be on the cusp of that breakout campaign.
The Tampa Bay Rays need to find a catcher for the future. Nick Ciuffo, with his solid start to the season for Montgomery, is putting himself into consideration for that spot.