You’d never expect the loss of a backup catcher could garner as much discussion as the injury to Jeff Mathis has had around Miami. Talk around the team would seem to suggest any number of possibilities – including more than one reference to manager Mike Redmond serving as his own backup catcher, noting that he could make pitching changes from the plate – but the most logical option might actually be the one that some parts of the fanbase most want to avoid. Kyle Skipworth could benefit most from Mathis’ injury.
Skipworth’s name coming up is an obvious one, considering he’s already on the team’s 40-man roster. He’d be the easiest choice as it wouldn’t necessitate another roster move. Joe Frisaro of MLB.com would have to believe that Skipworth is the one “most ready” among the team’s internal options, though he does note the catchers lengthy minor league career to date. It would seem that Skipworth may have a fan in Redmond, as well:
I like him. He’s a big, physical guy for a catcher. He’s going to get a chance to catch. Obviously we’re looking for one of those young kids to step up. Any time you get guys playing time in Spring Training, you see what you’ve got. You see how they handle the pressures.
Now 22 years old, Skipworth was taken with the 6th overall pick in the 1st Round of the 2008 Draft and has largely been considered a bust. He’s a career .219/.282/.377 hitter across his minor league career in 1,807 PA. He’s hit just .210/.278/.371 at Double-A, a level he’s spent the past two full seasons at. He also hasn’t shown much patience at the plate, striking out nearly five times for every walk.
It’s important to remember, however, that Skipworth is just 22 years old. He started his professional career as an 18 year old and his development has been slower than expected. He could still develop into a solid option in Miami (or elsewhere) if he’s ever given a chance.
Not everyone appears enamored with the idea of Skipworth making this team. Placido Estevez at Marlin Maniac discussed the options, running through some of the team’s catching history to find an adequate solution. Ultimately he concluded that he’d rather bring back the original Marlins catcher, Benito Santiago, instead of taking a long look at Skipworth in the backup role behind Rob Brantly.
Mathis, for what it’s worth, will miss at least six weeks after breaking his collarbone during the team’s first game of the Spring over the weekend. If he sticks to that time frame then he’s only likely to miss about two weeks of the regular season. That’s not a significant amount of time, suggesting that there is little reason to make any significant roster-altering decisions in response. There’s no need to part with an asset to acquire a new backup catcher if he’s just going to be sent down to Triple-A when Mathis returns. The team can get by with an existing option for two weeks if they need to.
Maybe this is Skipworth’s chance to prove he’s not just another draft bust. Could there be another more low-pressure chance?