Vinnie Catricala was drafted in the 10th round and 293rd overall in the 2009 draft by the Seattle Mariners. Coming out of the University of Hawaii, Catricala was not well known. Now coming into his 3rd year of professional ball, we are seeing a player that the world needs to get to know a lot better. The first thing you need to know about Vinne Catricala is that he will have one of the coolest nicknames in baseball. Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to introduce the one, the only: V-Cat.
But there is a lot more to know about V-Cat than just his name. He has spent his short professional career raking with the bat everywhere he goes. In just three professional seasons, Catricala has been promoted a total of 4 levels and he is getting better with every level. As far as his bat is concerned, he can do a little bit of everything. In total, he has a combined batting average of .322 with an on-base percentage of .397. It is fair to say that V-Cat gets on base his fair share of at-bats. However, that average is far from empty. Catricala has a combined slugging percentage of .536 and has knocked in 225 RBIs in 1236 at-bats. Those numbers look good in and of themselves but what is more striking is that his 2011 season was significantly better. In 2011 he played about a half of the season in High-A ball before being promoted to Double-A ball. The slash line across those 2 levels is .349/.421/.601. He hit for average, exhibited good plate discipline, and smacked the ball around the yard with authority. With 25 home runs and 106 RBIs in 521 at-bats, he was a source of solid power numbers throughout. In addition to all of this, V-Cat swiped 17 bags in 2011.
With his fantastic stats and impressive bat, Catricala has forced his way up the prospect charts. He came in at #69 on our Baseball Instinct 360. He has been pushing rapidly up the Mariners organization as well. We rated him as the #6 prospect in the Mariners organization. What is it that makes Vinnie Catricala such an interesting prospect? Let’s take a further look at his game.
It is his bat that has forced the baseball world to take notice of V-Cat. It is amazing to think that he lasted into the 10th round of the draft because the numbers in college are very similar to the numbers that he has accumulated in pro ball. It doesn’t seem that he has changed his approach to hitting in any way since he first started in college ball.
His swing starts with a fairly wide stance. Because his stance is so wide, he takes the smallest of steps towards the pitcher as the ball is being delivered. The stride is so short there is very little momentum generated in the movement. However, the stride allows him to remain very well-balanced throughout the swing and this is key to his overall approach at the plate. V-Cat claims to hate striking out and the numbers seem to reaffirm that with a respectable 17.6% k-rate in 2011. He relies on a short, compact swing to maintain solid plate coverage. Essentially, he is willing to forgo some of the power that would be available in his swing so that he maximizes plate coverage and batting average.
But that isn’t to say that V-Cat is without a solid power swing. His short and controlled stride allows Catricala to keep his weight back until the bat travels through the strike zone. His power then comes from tremendous torque that is generated through his hip rotation. While he did hit 25 home runs in 2011, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Over 42% of his 182 hits in 2011 went for extra bases. Catricala considers himself a line drive, gap-to-gap hitter and, again, the numbers bear that out. With 42 doubles and 4 triples, V-Cat doesn’t just do damage by hitting the ball out of the park.
Catricala has good pitch recognition and doesn’t chase a lot of balls out of the strike zone. He is capable of making a pitcher work and with a walk ratio of 9.5%, he is not afraid to take a walk. Vinnie Catricala has the ability to do offensive damage in many ways.
For as much as Catricala’s hit tools look major league ready, there are so many uncertainties to his defensive position. Catricala played 3b in college and he has spent a lot of time there in the minor leagues. However, he makes a lot of errors at the position. In 2011, he committed 14 errors in 172 defensive chances while playing at the hot corner. Those numbers are simply not acceptable for the major leagues. Conversely, he committed only 2 errors in 298 defensive chances while playing 1b. However, the value of his line-drive style hitting is diminished if he has to stay at 1b. He has enough athleticism that there is a chance he could stick as an outfielder. Recently, it became public that the Mariners have invited V-Cat to the major league camp for spring training. Furthermore, they changed his position designation to be that of outfielder. This is far from a shock because he has spent some time throughout the last 2 seasons in left field.
He is not a good outfielder but considering how little he has actually played there, that isn’t much of a surprise. He has enough speed that he can cover some ground and his arm should be passable for a major league outfielder. If he can develop the anticipation to know where the ball is going at the crack of the bat, and if he can learn to run correct routes to the ball, there is a chance that he could become major league acceptable. And that seems to be the way that the Mariners are approaching his defensive development. With a lackluster offense in Seattle, the Mariners may even allow V-Cat and his productive bat to learn the left field position through on-the-job training. For now, it would appear that the Mariners want to see what he can do in left field and that is a spot that would allow him to quickly ascend to the major league club.
The developmental of path of Vinnie Catricala is truly a fascinating one. He was an unknown draft pick in 2009 that has pushed his way into the prospect scene with a solid and polished offensive game. Meanwhile, he can’t seem to find a defensive position to call his own. He is a classic example of a player that has higher fantasy baseball value than he does to an actual major league team. With Catricala’s nice offensive game, fantasy owners don’t have to worry about his defensive liabilities.
That being said Catricala, is a fantastic blend of batting average and on-base tools with solid productive power hitting tools. And while right-handed power hitters have not fared well in Safeco field, V-Cat might be an exception to that rule. Because his approach tends to favor line-drive, gap power and not over-the-fence power, Catricala might become a doubles machine taking advantage of the spacious left-center and right-center gaps in Safeco Field. It is no secret that the inept offense of the Seattle Mariners could use immediate help, so there is a chance that V-Cat could bludgeon his way into the Mariners lineup this year with a strong performance. Most likely his arrival time is late 2012 or the beginning of the 2013 season.
Vinnie Catricala doesn’t need to change a thing with his offensive game. However, he needs to prove that he has enough athleticism to become an acceptable left fielder. He has the look of an above average major league hitter regardless of position. V-Cat needs to demonstrate that he can continue his current rate of production against the higher levels of competition, but all things point to his bat being as good as his nickname.
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