There are certain prospects that just make my eyes light up when I start talking about them. Jose Albertos moved to the top of that list following the Eloy Jimenez trade, but Miguel Amaya is another one. The 18-year-old catcher was blessed with a cannon for a right arm. The very first time I saw him throw down to second while catching for Eugene last year, I feel immediately in love with that arm.
6-1, 185 lbs (and still growing)
International free agent (Panama)
2018 affiliate: South Bend
Amaya is far from perfect, but his ceiling is pretty high. The issue right now is that his floor still needs a little work.
He struggled at the plate last year at Eugene until he moved down in the lineup, after which he hit almost .300 in August. He’s still got a little room to fill out as well, but he has shown the ability to pull the ball for power.
FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhage said this of Amaya’s bat back in November:
Offensively, Amaya’s approach to hitting is geared for contact. He expands the zone too often right now but has promising hand-eye coordination and bat control. He often finds a way to get the bat on the ball, making sub-optimal contact rather than no contact at all. He has the physical tools to hit but needs a refined approach, and his frame suggests there might eventually be some power here, too.
That’s promising, but if I’ really honest, I don’t care about the bat. It’s all about the arm for me.
At one point last year, Amaya was throwing out over 50 percent of base runners. He does have some work to do on blocking, though, and that actually led to a teachable moment last year. He once jogged lazily to the backstop in pursuit of a ball that had scooted between his legs, but somebody put a stop to that quickly and he hustled after everything the rest of the year.
Amaya also needs to work on going out and calming his pitchers down when they are struggling. He rarely went out to talk to anybody early in the season, but got much better as the year went on. There were certain pitchers with whom he seemed to be more comfortable, like Jose Albertos and Jesus Camargo. A lot of that is no doubt youth and comfort with the language and so forth.
After getting his feet wet in Eugene, South Bend will be a different animal for him. The weather will be much different, as will the size of the stadiums. I suspect a lot of the issues Amaya currently has should fade away quickly with game experience.
He’s also going to have to continue to be patient at the plate like he was in August last year. And he’ll be catching three of the Cubs’ top six prospects in Albertos, Lange, and Little, which is a huge responsibility for a teenager.
It’s imperative that he keeps up the effort on every pitch. There needs to be an emphasis on blocking balls in the dirt and keeping his pitchers calm. Everything else is a cherry on top of that arm.