Wolters has right stuff for transition to catcher
Indians prospect, former shortstop makes switch during Arizona Fall League
It certainly is not without precedent.
Craig Biggio is pounding hard on the Hall of Fame door and has a good chance to enter. He played catcher, outfield and second base for the Houston Astros for 15 seasons.
Like Biggio, Cleveland Indians prospect Tony Wolters is trying to make the same type of position change. However, instead of going from behind the plate to second base, Wolters is attempting to move from shortstop to catcher.
As far as I could see during the Arizona Fall League, Wolters, the Tribe's No. 11 prospect, according to MLB.com, was making an effective and efficient position transition.
In the third round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, the Indians selected Wolters as a shortstop from Rancho Buena Vista (Calif.) High School.
A highly rated high school position player, Wolters had planned to attend the University of San Diego had he not signed a professional baseball contract.
At 5-foot-10, 177-pounds, Wolters' first substantial test (he played in five games as a rookie in 2010) came with Class A Mahoning Valley in the New York-Penn League in 2011. A broken hamate bone limited his opportunity.
For Mahoning Valley, Wolters played exclusively at shortstop and hit .292, showing the type of short, measured stroke that gained attention in high school. Of his 78 hits, Wolters hit one home run, three triples and 10 doubles. He stole 19 bases. It was a good showing for his 19-year-old season.
Moving to Class A Advanced Carolina the following year, Wolters hit .260 in 537 plate-appearances. He split time playing shortstop and second base, even playing one game at third.
Loaded with organizational middle infielders, the Indians approached Wolters about making the conversion to catcher.
The team boasts one of the game's finest shortstop prospects in Francisco Lindor, the heir apparent to Asdrubal Cabrera. Players with excellent upside such as Dorssys Paulino, Ronny Rodriguez and Jose Ramirez are additional middle-infielders ranked among the Indians' Top 20 Prospects.
Because Wolters likes to be totally involved and immersed in the game, he agreed to the position change.
A position change for a good athlete like Wolters could potentially increase his chance to make the Major League club. Especially since Wolters is a left-handed hitter, a rare and valued commodity for a catcher.
Repeating his assignment to Carolina in 2013, 58 of the 80 games in which Wolters played were behind the plate. He had only six passed balls and threw out 28 percent of runners attempting to steal. He showed a solid ability in his first catching experience since his freshman year of high school.
Wolters has excellent agility and coordination behind the plate. He moves his body quickly to block balls. His pop time on throws to second base is average with good exchange from glove to throwing hand. His throws have good carry and are accurate.
I like Wolters' catching mechanics.
In the Arizona Fall League, Wolters also played shortstop. So, he had to be prepared for both roles on a day-to-day basis. That was challenging.
I think he was totally exhausted by the end of November when the Fall League concluded. His bat was dragging a bit.
Normally a solid contact hitter capable of using the entire field, Wolters hit only .178 in 14 games and 58 AFL plate appearances. He walked 10 times and struck out on 11 occasions.
Wolters' approach at the plate with a quick, barrel-seeking stroke are among the qualities I like in his hitting. He knows his limitations. And he has some pop in his bat. He can put a charge in a pitch.
Wolters' actions as a player are smooth and refined. Both in the infield and behind the plate, he has a "presence" and self-confidence, combined with a situational knowledge of the game that reflects his "gamer" spirit.
Wolters certainly doesn't mind getting his uniform dirty.
The versatility Walters brings, as a middle-infielder and left-handed hitting catcher are valuable team assets. Further refinement is needed, but Wolters' desire and ability to succeed are evident.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff; on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.