Follow me on Twitter. I’m up to 50 followers officially now. The 50th was some student group at Wichita State, SIFE. I was looking for an actual person to be No. 50, but I guess I’ll take what I can get. It’s a milestone nonetheless.
Catcher is the most difficult position to fill in independent baseball. The position is so important that anyone with any kind of offensive or defensive pedigree will have a job in affiliated ball, and guys have built long careers out of being able to handle pitchers without much of an offensive presence.
Last season, the Wingnuts had a gem behind the plate in Joe Muich. Not only was Muich a hometown guy, having played at Wichita State, but he came to the Wingnuts after having spent time in the Yankees organization and had the defensive qualities all teams look for in a backstop.
Though Muich’s bat slowed toward the end of the season, he was a North Division All-Star and was easily the best catcher in the entire American Association. But he’s retired now.
Will the Wingnuts find good fortune at catcher again? On paper, Jeff Christy seems to create an answer of ‘Yes’. He reached Triple-A with the Minnesota Twins, where he caught the likes of current Twins Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing. Last season, he played in Double-A and Triple-A but was released in November.
A product of the Barton County and the University of Nebraska, Christy was a decent college hitter but has found a useful career as a backup catcher in the upper levels of the minor leagues and someone who provides a strong defensive presence. He hasn’t hit much in the minors, though, with a .215 average in four seasons and 27 extra-base hits in 651 at-bats. Muich, a natural comparison for Christy, hit well in the low-level minors but was a .218 hitter in Double-A before batting .260 with seven homers with Wichita in 2009.
I know that if all Christy does is bring the best out of Wichita’s pitchers, manager Kevin Hooper and pitching coach Luke Robertson will be thrilled. Anything he provides with the bat will be just a bouns. And that’s the right mindset to have, because Christy’s track record doesn’t suggest his numbers will translate better on the independent level.
Season projection: 81 games, 314 at-bats, 71 hits, .226 average, 3 home runs, 26 RBIs, 9 doubles, 1 triple, .290 slugging percentage, 24 walks, 3 HBP, .287 on-base percentage.