Catcher Jamie Ritchie
Jamie Ritchie is currently in the running with Michael Pérez for the second catcher spot. Ritchie is a very interesting player who deserves a look in the majors. In November, the Pirates acquired the backstop/left fielder/first baseman by signing him to a minor league contract. His numbers at Triple-A in 2021 deserve at least a glance at the game’s highest level.
After spending most of his career as a Houston Astro farmhand, Ritchie spent the 2021 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate. In 336 trips to the plate, Ritchie batted .317/.418/.430 with a .378 wOBA and 120 wRC+. Now Ritchie didn’t hit for much power, but he was an on-base king. He walked at an insane 12.8% rate, all while striking out just 15.5% of the time. He had the second-best OBP and third-best BB/K ratio among all Triple-A West batters with 300 or more plate appearances.
Getting on base is Ritchie’s calling card. His minor league career OBP is higher than his minor league career slugging percentage, .404 to .400. Drawing walks is something Ritchie does a lot of, owning a career 14.9% walk rate since his professional debut in 2014. Not even Juan Soto walked that much during his time in the minor leagues.
The only downside to Ritchie’s offensive game is his power. He’s only had 28 home runs across 563 minor league games. Last year, he had an isolated slugging percentage of .113. But it’s a small price to pay for how often he makes contact and, even more impressively, how often he walks.
Look, I get it. He’s a 28-year-old and has never been hailed as a noteworthy prospect. But come on, how can you at least not give this guy a chance? That kind of patience at the plate can’t be taught. He posted a 120 wRC+ at the minor league’s highest level in 2021. Even if he bats .200 in the majors, he’d still have an OBP around .350 because he walks that often.
The Pittbsurgh Pirates already gave Pérez a shot at the second catcher role last season. At the very least, Ritchie provides more versatility as not only can he catch, but he has played his fair share of games at first base and logged 140 innings in left field last season. It’s time to give an underdog a chance to shine.