Offseason Prospect Overview: Miguel Amaya

Miguel Amaya (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Miguel Amaya (photo by Rikk Carlson)

Season Review

I had Amaya ranked neck-and-neck with Aramis Ademan for the top position player in the system last offseason, which was much higher than most outlets but I was impressed with his tools and maturity behind the plate for an 18-year old playing against competition often several years older than him. I was not put off by his poor offensive output (.228/.266/.338) because he showed the ability to drive the ball whenever he was waiting for good pitches. His plate discipline wavered but considering the age difference and the fact he was facing pitchers with experience controlling multiple pitches for the first time, struggles were not a surprise. I considered it only a matter of time before his skills translated.

That said, even I was surprised at how quickly Amaya's production sprang to life in the first half of 2018. I expected slow offensive progress over the course of a couple of seasons as Amaya would continue to face more advanced competition while also learning to handle the load of being a starting catcher in full season ball. But the 19-year old's bat broke out in a big way (.280/.348/.478 thru 7/12), leading to a Futures Game invite and appearances on multiple midseason Top 100 prospect lists. Amaya's production dipped precipitously in the 2nd half (.198/.351/.223 after 7/12), but just as his 2017 numbers were not an indictment of his abilities, it isn't a long-term concern as Amaya possesses the frame and strength to eventually hold up as an everyday catcher.

Positives

Amaya not only added strength but made some adjustments to increase his launch angle. He features a strong compact swing and shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields.


An encouraging aspect is he handles high fastballs well even as he has increased the angle of his swing. Should develop consistent 15-20 HR power while also maintaining solid contact rates. Amaya improved his plate discipline by leaps and bounds from 2017. His BB rate increased, and maintained a K rate near 19% throughout season even as his AVG/SLG dipped in 2nd half. At one point amassed a 23-game on-base streak.

On the defensive side, Amaya is developing the sturdy build necessary to hold up as an everyday catcher, and shows off the strong, quiet hands necessary for pitch framing. Has enough quickness to block pitches in the dirt. Wasn't always on the same page (not unusual given he never worked with them before), but looked comfortable catching both Yu Darvish and Drew Smyly during their rehab outings. 

His arm strength is above average, but right now his pop times and accuracy are inconsistent. Again, this is most likely to do with his age and lack of experience. Got off to a slow start controlling the running game in 2018, but after an early season visit from the roving catching instructor showed immediate improvement. He should develop more consistent technique in the future. Has thrown out 36.5% of base runners the past two years.

Negatives

There isn't much in the way of negatives with Amaya as he is a well-rounded prospect. His speed is below average and likely to get a little worse, but it is on par with other MLB catchers. He still needs to refine his footwork behind the plate and become more consistent with using proper technique in all situations, but as a teenager isn't expected to be a finished product.

Summation

Amaya lacks the explosive movement capabilities of a plus athlete like Willson Contreras but possesses all the tools necessary to become a well-rounded defender. He is also hard workign and receives raves for his positive attitude and character. There is a cap to his potential, and the most likely outcome is he becomes a league average bat, but as a solid defensive catcher too Miguel Amaya is a valuable asset.

2019 Outlook

Just keep building. Build consistency, build stamina, build experience handling a pitching staff. Amaya has several years to develop before he is likely to be asked to carry a heavy load at the MLB level.

Comments

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    Good stuff, thanks Mike! If he keeps progressing, will be interesting to see if Amaya takes over for Willson, backs him up, or becomes trade bait... Or perhaps flexes to another position, we know how much Cubbies and everyone value versatility these days. With his catcher-average feet and above average arm, perhaps 3B is where he would fit best, defensively?

  • In reply to Tyson Wirth:

    Amaya can't play anywhere else besides 1B. There is no reason to worry though. It will take at least a few years before Amaya reaches majors. By then, we'll know exactly what Contreras is and whether he's signed beyond team control years by then. Amaya probably takes a year or two in a timeshare to learn ropes just like Contreras did.

    So basically... don't worry about it for about 5 years :)

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Where/level will he start the 2019 season?

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I’m not Michael, but I would venture to guess Myrtle Beach. That seems to be how his progression is going.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Correct

  • Nice to see Amaya progressing. Even if he's backup to a veteran Contreras, it still helps the team. It also frees up Caratini for a move, if needed.

  • Another guy who just needs the experience against better competition to improve & move the needle closer to the bigs. Nice to have a guy like this coming along in the wings. Nice write up.

  • Nice write up Michael. Assuming he continues to develop the needed skills at a decent rate - how soon realistically might we see him get a look in Wrigley?

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Late 2021 at earliest I would think.
    I think they are more likely to take it one level at a time with a catcher. There is value in having a catcher work with some of the same pitchers over the course of a season.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Yeah I was guessing 2021 and probably 2022 before he has much of an impact. And since that's about the window for Wilson to start getting expensive - it'll be good to have a potential new starter to add to the mix even if they decide to retain Contreras and trade him.

  • Just heard the Cubs signed a couple of Cuban ball players. An OFer, 17 yr old Christian More $400K bonus & OF/1B/P, 19 yr old Felix Canizares, listed 6’4” 218LBs when he was just 17 yrs old. Canizares also supposed to very fast. Both projected to start out at the Cubs Dominican facility.

  • Watched Felix on U tube. He reminds me of Solar.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    That wouldn't be too bad. He brought us a closer. But maybe he could be another Eloy... :o)

    I saw a video the other day of some Cub 2018 draft picks already getting after it in AZ in preps for ST. Davis put on some nice muscle weight & appeared to be mashing it. Off a tee, but the swing looked nice. Could be a steal at where he was picked. Roederer is another guy I think that where & when we got him will also be a steal. And I already liked the Hoerner pick.

    I think our farm will rise back up in the rankings within the next yr. or 2 as a few of these guys, along w/the previous existing ones up their stock. And that doesn't even take into account the up coming 2019 draft. Although I don't think we have any comp picks this year.

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