I’ve written extensively about my intrigue as to what the Indians would do with their gluttony of middle infield depth. Well, part of that answer has now come with the announcement that Tony Wolters will now primarily be a catcher starting in 2013.
Wolters was my No. 10 prospect in the Indians system after his slightly disappointing 2012. But the former third-round pick is highly athletic, meaning that the move to catcher makes some sense. Wolters played some catcher in high school, so the position isn’t entirely foreign to him. Still, this pushes his development behind about a year now that he needs to focus on calling games and deal with the rigors of catching.
The Indians say that he will still play second base and shortstop at High-A Carolina this year, which tells me that Wolters is being groomed into a super-utility type. While primarily serving as the backup catcher on a Major League roster, Wolters could fill in around the infield while hitting enough to merit a spot in the lineup, giving the manager a lot of flexibility.
The Wolters move also shines some light on the development paths for the rest of the Tribe’s middle infield prospects. Its already been announced that Jose Ramirez will skip High-A and join the Double-A Akron Aeros as only a 20-year-old; Ronny Rodriguez will join him there at shortstop. While Wolters primarily catches, he will still play some second base and give Francisco Lindor the occasional off day in Kinston. Dorssys Paulino will take the reins at shortstop at Low-A Lake County, which means everything looks to shape out nicely.
In terms of eventual promotions, its hard to say how those will shake out. The most likely to move up are Lindor and Paulino. I can’t see Rodriguez getting significant time at Triple-A this year, but he now blocks Lindor. Paulino could move up and play some second and possibly third base alongside Lindor at High-A, but he’ll see most of his time in Lake County in 2013. Jose Ramirez won’t see Columbus until 2014, as he’s already skipping a level and there’s no reason to rush him. With Wolters needing to learn how to catch again, a promotion to Double-A is likely, but it won’t be until much later in 2013.
With Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn in Cleveland, Cord Phelps will need an injury to see playing time, so he will take up a spot in Columbus’ lineup for the time being. If Ronny Rodriguez is pushed to Triple-A, expect it to come at the expense of Juan Diaz, who is nothing more than organizational depth.
Rodriguez is the linchpin in all of this. When he’s promoted to Columbus—which I don’t even believe is all that likely in 2013—it could lead to the promotions of Lindor and eventually Paulino. Ramirez and Wolters are now on separate tracks, as they will not primarily play shortstop like Rodriguez, Lindor and Paulino.
Overall, I like the move of Wolters to catcher. He needs to play every day, and giving him as much defensive flexibility as possible helps with that. Can he be an impact player behind the plate? Probably not, but he can be a solid option there. I can’t see him as an everyday option behind the dish, but as a super-utility type, I like his chances.