Jane Lee of MLB.com reported this morning the Athletics have acquired Minor League 3B Vinnie Catricala from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations. The trade appears to be a move to give the organization some more depth at the hot corner. Josh Donaldson has started every game except one at third base this season for the big club with Andy Parrino, currently hitting .186 in Sacramento, drawing the other start. Besides Parrino and Scott Moore, a 29-year-old journeyman also in Sacramento, the A’s have no other true third basemen in Triple-A and the corps in Double-A is rather underwhelming.
Originally drafted by the Indians in the 50th round of the 2006 draft, Catricala attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa before re-entering the draft in 2009 and getting selected by the Mariners in the 10th round.
Prior to last year, Catricala looked to be a good bet to make his big league debut with the Mariners in 2013 or ’14. However, he struggled mightily in his first year of Triple-A ball with the Tacoma Rainiers last season, hitting .229 with an abysmal .292 on-base percentage to along with 10 homers and 61 RBI in 463 at-bats. Scouts reported that his swing was too long as his mechanics fell apart. Subsequently, Catricala found himself back at Double-A this year with the Jackson (Tennessee) Generals and his struggles have continued as his slash line currently stands at .253/.318/.351 in 195 plate appearances.
It wasn’t always this way for the Sacramento native. In 2011, he hit .349 with 25 homers and 107 RBI in 521 at-bats between Advanced Single-A and Double-A ball. He also threw in 17 stolen bases, only getting caught four times, for good measure. He was also named Seattle’s Minor League Player of the Year.
Before his disastrous 2012, the main knock on Catricala was that he’s a terrible defender who would best be suited to being a designated hitter. Drafted as a third baseman, the Mariners have tried playing him as an outfielder in the past, but he’s only drawn one start there in 2013 and he appears to be set at third. However, scouts are unanimous in saying Vinnie is a stone hand man regardless of where you put him.
When I first heard about the trade I was a bit confused since I didn’t see the need for it, but a quick glance at the organizational depth chart paints a clearer picture of why Billy Beane made this move. As already mentioned, Parrino and Moore are holding down third at Sacramento, with occasional starts by Josh Horton, a 27-year-old converted shortstop drafted by the A’s in 2007. Hiruoyuki Nakajima has also drawn some time there as well, but I don’t see him playing anywhere other than short and second when he reaches the majors. The “stick Grant Green at whatever the hell defensive position we can game” appears to be over as the bulk of his starts have come at second base this season.
Even though Vinnie is struggling and isn’t much of a defender, he’s had great success in the minors before and he’s only 24. He still has time to get his hitting back in order and learn how to become at least serviceable with his glove. If he can get back to level he played at in 2011, he could make his way up the ladder in a year or two.