After starting his professional career off with a bang, Brewer officials are hoping Rule 5 draftee Vinnie Catricala finds his groove following two years of struggles.
The Mariners’ 2011 Minor League Player of the Year has been unable to parlay his early success into the higher levels of Minor League Baseball.
Catricala belted a combined 25 home runs with 106 runs batted in and accumulated a .349 batting average between Advanced A High Desert and Double A Jackson in 2011.
However, scouts were skeptical of Catricala’s defensive prowess at third base after committing 14 errors in 54 games at the position during his award-winning 2011 season.
According to the Seattle Times, Mariners Player Development officials debated switching him to the outfield following his defensive liabilities.
“When I was in high school, my defense was what I was known for. Now, in college, my bat was what I was known for. I think I’m getting closer to putting them both together consistently,” Catricala told Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times in 2012.
In addition, the infielder also indicated he got too comfortable playing on FieldTurf on the Hawaii campus and became complacent.
“I played on the FieldTurf and got good hops every single time. Like I said, I got lazy, lackadaisical. I was in college, thought I knew it all. So it’s taken a while to get back to the fundamentals,” Catricala added.
Expectations hindered development
Many people inside and outside baseball do not expect anything substantial from a tenth round selection and his early success became an obstacle.
Following three respectable seasons, Catricala struggled to maintain intensity in 2012 after batting .229 with ten home runs and 60 runs batted in for Triple A Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.
Former Seattle Manager Eric Wedge told Baker of the Times he planned to take a long look at Catricala during Spring Training in 2012.
Catricala acknowledged his struggles and pressure by the Mariners’ organization prior to Spring Training in 2013.
“I had large expectations,” Catricala said. “I had a real good camp and thought, ‘I’ll spend my time in Triple-A and get up to the big leagues.’ It didn’t pan out that way, and I ended up learning a lot about myself and a lot about baseball. It was the first time I really struggled in pro ball. It put things into perspective – baseball’s not everything. It allowed me to have more fun this year. I went to the Fall League and had fun, I’m back here, I’m having fun; so it kind of put it all into perspective. Baseball’s not the end of the world.”
Seattle made the decision to purchase the contract of Catricala after the 2013 season and place him on the team’s 40-man roster.
However, he was traded to Oakland in June 2013 after the Mariners designated him for assignment.
Catricala incurred an underwhelming performance with Double A Jackson where he batted .251 with three home runs and 21 RBI.
When a player strikes out following one pitch, fans can only assume the batter came in as pinch hitter in the middle of an at bat.
But for Catricala, he struck out following one pitch – all by himself in a game against Corpus Christi of the Texas League.
The infielder disputed a called first strike and after refusing to re-enter the batter’s box upon orders of the home plate – he was charged an additional two strikes.
Catricala’s selection by Milwaukee will allow him a fresh start with his third organization in two seasons.
Despite having experience at first base and left field, his best chance will be at third base given the depth at first base and in the outfield for the Nashville Sounds.
Nashville Manager Rick Sweet will spend the majority of the 2014 season juggling Hunter Morris and Jason Rogers at first base while getting the glutton of outfielders already on the roster at bats.
Infielders Stephen Parker and Taylor Green will be standing in the way of Catricala on the third base depth chart for the 2014 Sounds.
Parker was acquired in a trade with Oakland for outfielder Darren Byrd while Green will attempt to revive his own career within the Brewers organization.
Sweet will be limited in flexibility due to Parker playing 471 of his 552 career games at third base and exhibiting no experience up the middle (three games at second base).