READING, Pa. – Charlie Manuel offered scouting reports on Rod Barajas, Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste during the team's recent caravan visit.
Barajas: "Barajas is a good defensive catcher, with some power … what I call ‘pull power.’ He’s got a good arm, and he’s a good catcher. That should be a good dog for us."
Ruiz: "Last year, he had a real big year, and he stayed healthy. By the end of the season, he started to show us what he was doing in Triple-A. He showed some power, and he swings the bat real good. He runs okay for a catcher, and he sees the ball good. We’ve heard that we want him to improve handling the pitchers, calling the game. I think it’s something he can definitely learn; something he can improve on."
Coste: "He can play a little bit at third base; I don’t look at him as someone you could leave in there for a long period of time. And he’s a good pinch hitter; he puts the ball in play and he’s got some power. (I then asked if he would need to win a job in spring training) He’s going to have to compete … I think he caught 46 games last season, late in the season. I remember how he played. We know what he can do. He caught big games for us down the stretch, and he was on the field in those games we were winning a lot. He got some hits that won games for us … He’s sitting right there in the mix."
Beerleaguer: Manuel thinks highly of Ruiz’s line-drive stroke, as do scouts. Scouts have actually backed off their previous high marks for defense, calling him adequate with an above-average arm, but were impressed with his surge in gap power last season. Pitcher/catcher chemistry isn’t Manuel’s field of expertise, and it seemed clear he’s getting second-hand input in that area. Overall, he didn’t seem concerned Ruiz could figure out the other stuff and become a major league contributor.
Manuel seemed a little too excited by Barajas, definitely influenced by his home run totals from two seasons ago. Cholly is a power guy all the way, even if it’s all-or-nothing spot power like Barajas. In reality, Barajas carries a big risk of becoming the lineup’s next tar pit of poor production due to his low on-base. Fortunately, Manuel seemed to recognize the importance of keeping the lineup moving in an earlier question. I was happy to hear that bottom-lineup production will be a big emphasis this spring.
As for Coste, Manuel recited his numbers (.328, 7 homers, 32 RBIs, 46 games behind the plate) as if he’d previously made a case for Coste to stay on at catcher. General manager Pat Gillick obviously felt otherwise with the signing of Barajas, and now Manuel has starting envisioning Coste as a primary bat off the bench. During my session, he did not mention Jayson Werth as a catching candidate, which is something Gillick has pointed out in his off-season interviews.