The Pittsburgh Pirates need to add catching talent to their minor league system. However, there are two young prospects who put together really nice seasons in 2019.
One area many thought the Pittsburgh Pirates would address during the 2020 MLB Draft was at catcher. However, the team ended up taking just one-hitter and five pitchers, and they have only signed one UDFA, who is also a pitcher. This was surprising being that Ben Cherington himself talked this offseason about needing to add more catching talent.
Maybe part of the reason he did not necessarily look to add catching talent is that there are two low-level catching prospects who had big 2019s. Both are teenage prospects, so they are about the same age as any prep catching prospects the team would have drafted. While there may not be a lot of known talent behind the dish in the upper minors, there could be a couple developing in the lower minors.
The first catcher to talk about is 18-year-old Geovany Planchart. The team signed Planchart out of Venezuela back before the 2019 season. Because of all the issues going on in the country, his signing bonus figure was never reported.
The 6’0”, 180-pound right-handed-hitting catcher was able to make his Pittsburgh Pirates organizational debut in 2019. He played with their Dominican Summer League team, quickly established himself as one of the better hitters on the team. Planchart ended up slashing .368/.433/.406 across 32 games. Furthermore, he only struck out 7.6 percent of the time while walking 10 percent.
It is always encouraging to see a young hitter walking more than they strikeout. He did only slug .406 with an ISO at at a low .038, but Planchart is very young, and if he can continue to control the strike zone and get on base, any additional power will be a bonus. He has a somewhat projectable frame at 6’0” and 180 pounds, so there is definitely room to add power.
The other catching prospect in Jommer Hernandez. Hernandez, 19, is a year older than Planchart and has been with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for a year longer. Hernandez has a very similar build to Planchart, standing at 5’11” and weighing around 180 pounds as well. The team signed Hernandez back in 2017 out of the Dominican Republic for a bonus worth $250,000.
Hernandez had an underwhelming start to his professional career. In 2018, he played in 45 games in the DSL and posted a slash line of .247/.330/.293. One positive from that was his on-base percentage being almost 100 points higher than his batting average. He struck out 21 percent of the time while walking 10 percent of the time, which is not too bad. Still, Hernandez showed basically no power, which likely cost him base hits as well. He only had six extra-base hits and an an ISO of .047
However, Hernandez rebounded with an impressive 2019 campaign. He once again played at the DSL level and appeared in 46 games, slashing .317/.406/.423 to go along with 10 extra-base hits. He also decreased his strikeouts and increased his walks, cutting his strikeout rate to 15 percent and raising his walk rate to 11.5 percent. Hernandez’s slugging percentage increased but his ISO also went up to a much more respectable .106.
Overall, both Planchart and Hernandez need to continue to add power to their game. They have shown that they are not only able to hit for a strong average but also have good control of the strike zone at a young age. If the young backstops can add power and continue to produce offensively, then they have a chance to establish themselves as legitimate catching prospects.