Hatchlings: The Backup Catchers

Cody Stanley, oh so manly. - USA TODAY Sports

Hatchlings is a Future Redbirds series profiling the top prospects in the Cardinals minor league system. The series will conclude with a community vote to rank the pre-season top 20 Future Redbirds.

Casey Rasmus

Age: 23, 24 on March 29th

Position: C

Acquired: Draft, 2011: 36th round, 1100th overall

Bats: S

Throws: R

Player Profile & Career Summary:

Casey is, of course, the younger brother of one Colby Rasmus. Drafted with one of the final few picks the Cardinals had in the 2011 draft, the younger Rasmus seemed like a pick the Cardinals made to please the Rasmus family, or at least put the brothers in the same organization. However, Colby was obviously traded just a couple months later.

Casey didn't do much in 2011 to dispel the notion that he was just drafted for his surname, as he hit a pretty meager .230/.288/.260 at Short Season Batavia, which is bad even for a backup catcher and particularly so for a college pick in against short season competition. His line in 2012 was not any better: .220/.253/.307 in 49 games for the Quad Cities River Bandits. Entering 2013 things looked pretty dismal for Rasmus. His walk rate was between mediocre and bad, and his strikeout rate was sitting just under 20% for his young career.

Surprisingly that's when Rasmus decided to become a prospect (of sorts). In 2013 he advanced from Low A all the way to AA on the merit of a .298 BA across the three levels. Now Rasmus looks like he could be the heir apparent to Tony Cruz.

Profile:

I'm not at all sure what is going on with Rasmus' batting line, but it's nothing like Colby's minor league numbers (no surprise, given their respective draft positions). After two seasons in the low minors with BABIPs of .280 and .272, Jordan Casey Rasmus suddenly BABIP'd .344, .433, .341 moving up the ladder from Low A to High A to AA. His walk rate is still bad, 5% across his 2013 stops, and his strikeout rate is not much better at 16.4%. And, again unlike his brother, he has hit just two home runs in 135 minor league games.

In short, Rasmus has an empty batting average, devoid of any support from secondary skills like reaching base or hitting for power, and it may also be entirely fueled by a largely unexplained rise in BABIP. The only indication that Rasmus may be able to support a higher-than-normal-but-still-probably-not-that-high BABIP is his speed, which is above average, and unusually so for a catcher. He swiped 14 bags last season, and was caught merely thrice.

From this Rob Rains profile on Rasmus, I get the impression that the organization has done a good job leaving Casey out of the controversy surrounding his brother and their outspoken father:
"I've not had one conversation with him about Colby and I don't observe that a lot of people bring it up," said Springfield manager Mike Shildt. "This is the first time I've had him as a manager, and he's been great. My observation is that he's Casey Rasmus. He's his own guy."

For his part, Casey doesn't shy away from speaking positively about his family, bordering on verbose when compared to his brother's concise manner, but also appreciates not being compared to his brother.

2014 Outlook:

Rasmus is not a top prospect, especially in an organization that is still very deep even after graduating many of its brightest stars, and he probably never will be. The confluence of interesting storyline, potential usefulness at a hard-to-fill positions, and odd statistical profile make him worth watching though. It seems likely that Rasmus' batting average will drop this season, cratering his offensive worth, but if he can maintain enough average to best the .236/.271/.331 line of the arbitration-bound Cruz, he could be a backup catcher that can double as a pinch runner, which would be fun to see.

Projection:

I'm rooting for Casey Rasmus, let there be no doubt. I expect his BABIP, and subsequently his batting average, to drop this year, but I also expect him to continue to be a solid defensive catcher with a still somewhat visually appealing batting average. That's going to be enough to get him playing time in an organization without much catcher depth. He'll start at AA this year, and it won't take much to promote him to AAA with an eye toward taking over for Cruz in 2015 or 2016.

Cody Stanley

Age: 25

Position: C

Acquired: Draft, 2010: 4th round, 139th overall

Bats: L

Throws: R

Player Profile & Career Summary:

Meet Casey's competition for backup catcher. After tearing through Rookie Ball following his signing, he started his first full season of pro ball in the Single A Midwest League. Where he combined mediocre walk and contact rates with above average power to form a .264/.316/.425 line; a pretty decent year for a mid-round catching prospect. However, Stanley had a run of bad luck and bad decisions that caused him to miss a considerable portion of his 2012 season. In March Stanley was suspended 50 games for the use of performance enhancing drugs, the result of a one-time mistake he made during an early morning the month prior, according to Stanley. Just seven games into his return for the Palm Beach Cardinals, he would dislocate the middle finger of his throwing hand trying to catch an errant pitch (yes, with his throwing hand).

Stanley hasn't played remarkably well since. After finishing 2012 with a respectable .280/.300/.401, albeit with a 3.5% BB rate, he wrapped up the year with a forgettable AFL performance. He started off 2013 repeating High A, before being promoted to AA. Across the two levels he hit a combined .244/.285/.337, his BABIP (well above .300 the three prior years) plummeting to .265 in PB and .293 in Springfield.

Profile:

Stanley has exhibited high K rates and mundane walk rates at every full season stop. He has shown good power, but his ISOs have been declining at every stop and fell below .100 last year (down from .121 in 2012, and .161 in 2011). He's never going to be an above average hitter, but he can provide some thump off the bench if he keeps his contact rates in check. His walk rates went from meh, to just plain bad last year at just 4.7%, which is something to keep an eye on. The bar is low for catchers, but to keep from limboing under it Stanley has to restore his ISO and BB rate after career lows last year. Defensively Stanley should be fine staying at the position, and limits the running game well. He threw out 42% of baserunners at AA last year, and 38% in his professional career.

2014 Outlook:

While AA is going to provide some tough advanced pitching for Stanley, Springfield has traditionally been a haven for left-handed hitters, and he should see a good rise in his power numbers. I doubt he's a true talent BABIP .320+ guy, but he should see an improvement from last year's lows.

Projection:

Stanley will hit for power at Springfield, and when he does he'll find himself in Memphis quickly. He'll likely make a few visits to St. Louis over the next year or two, but I suspect how long he stays will depend on how much the organization likes his skills as a receiver and how that compares to Rasmus' skills.

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