It’s been an interesting offseason for catchers in the Cubs system, highlighted by top prospect Miguel Amaya. After playing at Myrtle Beach this summer, Amaya was named to the Fall Stars Game in the Arizona Fall League. was also named the league’s best defender by Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline. But he’s not the only catcher in the system.
Jhonny Pereda, a defense-first catcher who threw out 50% of runners this summer in the Southern League, was named a Rawlings Gold Glove winner on Monday. PJ Higgins has always looked good at the plate and got even better at Triple-A Iowa with a .291 average and .895 OPS over 117 at-bats. That’s pretty solid depth at a coveted position, which could force the Cubs to make some tough decisions in the next month
Both Amaya and Higgins are Rule 5 Draft-eligible and may need to be protected. Pereda was eligible last year and now can become a free agent if the Cubs do not place him on the 40-man roster. Even though Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini are the only catchers on the 40-man right now, adding three more might seem like a bit much.
First things first, Amaya is a 100% lock to be added. With his power potential, strong arm, work ethic, and improving plate discipline, the 20-year-old projects as a possible everyday guy at the MLB level in a couple years. That leaves Higgins and Pereda
Higgins has hit at every level of the minors except a half season at Myrtle Beach, posting a career .272/.357/.367 slash with potential for more. He’s also extremely versatile defensively and only caught 50 games all year while playing mostly at the corners of the infield. He played second base in college at Old Dominion and that was his initial position at Mesa and Eugene after being drafted in 2015.
The Cubs signed Pereda as an international free agent in 2013, but his career really began to take off in 2018 under the tutelage of Buddy Bailey at Myrtle Beach. His excellent plate approach has yielded double-digit walk rates the past four summers, peaking at 12.3% in 2019, and he’s still only 23 years old. Pereda hit .375 with a .522 OBP for Iowa in the playoffs and I would like to see how his bat plays over a full season at Triple-A.
Jhonny Pereda catches Laz Rivera thieving pic.twitter.com/JVwlIK2iuN
— Ben Spanier (@b_span2) August 23, 2018
It looks like the Cubs will have about 30-32 players on the roster, depending on who they non-tender, come November 20. That is the last day to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft and it’s hard to imagine them adding more than five to the 40-man roster
One of those figures to be reliever Dakota Mekkes, which leaves only three or more more remaining spots. Ultimately, it might be in the Cubs’ best interest to add all three of these catchers rather than risk losing them. Amaya is a given, Higgins can play all over the field and his bat is much more advanced than the other two, and Pereda has advanced defensive acumen with a great eye at the plate.
Maybe the Cubs are willing to take a chance with one of the latter to, it’s just hard to give up either elite defense or a polished hit tool. Looking at the upcoming 40-man decisions seems to be turning into a series, so we could expand the discussion to include Tyson Miller, Zack Short, Trent Giambrone, Oscar de la Cruz, and/or Colin Rea moving forward.