For someone who that hasn’t ever played at a level higher than advanced A, Jose Trevino has certainly gotten some challenging assignments this spring. In his first start, Trevino (Chi Chi Gonzalez’ former Oral Roberts batterymate) found himself catching knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa. Today against the Rockies, he’ll be catching Yu Darvish, who might be working on one particular pitch, or might be working on throwing all five (or seven, or nine) pitches.
It doesn’t seem like the sort of assignment you’d give a young catcher with such little experience at advanced levels, but you get the feeling the Rangers don’t think Trevino (who we ranked as the #10 Rangers prospect) is just any young catcher.
“Yeah, because I want to see him,” Jeff Banister answered last week, when asked about Trevino catching Gamboa. “It’s time to catch. It’s too early to be thinking about trying to match up (pitchers and catchers). I’ve seen veteran guys have challenges with knuckleballers, and I’ve seen young guys have challenges with knuckleballers. Until you get back there and ride that bull, you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
For effect, the manager added: “I challenge you to catch a butterfly with a pair of chopsticks.”
The Rangers have taken it appropriately slow with Trevino thus far. This is the way with catchers: they take a little longer to make it to develop than other positions. But Texas has a history of aggressively advancing their young stars once their performance warrants it: Less than four months after Yohander Mendez made his last start in High Desert (pitching to Trevino, no less). He was making his MLB debut. Rougned Odor skipped AAA altogether in 2014 (though he did spend a little time there in 2015).
Unless something goes horribly, 2014-level wrong, Trevino is not likely to play at the Major League level in 2017. Not for a team that expects to make a deep October run, and boasts Jonathan Lucroy, Robinson Chirinos, Brett Nicholas, Steven Lerud, A.J. Jimenez, and Pat Cantwell ahead of Trevino on the depth chart. But Trevino has improved at every level he’s played. He hit .303 with a .776 OPS last season in High Desert (though it’s important to remember: that place was an offensive utopia) while throwing out nearly 50% of would-be base thieves. Hovering around that 50% mark has been the norm for him since the Rangers drafted him.
He has not looked out of place this Spring in the big league games, either. While he entered today hitless in just three at-bats, he has handled the pitchers well. In the first inning of his first start, Scooter Gennett decided to test the young catcher, taking off for second base. The pitch was a Gamboa knuckleball.
I’m not going to tell you that Jose Trevino can catch butterflies with chopsticks. But he can throw out major-league baserunners. Gennett was out, and it wasn’t particularly close.
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