Coming into the 2008 draft, Kyle Skipworth was considered to be one of the best high school catching prospects in years–a rare elite hitting prospect who could also do a solid job behind the plate.
Nearly five years later, the Marlins are still waiting for Skipworth to hit. But thanks to Jeff Mathis’ broken collarbone, it’s possible that Skipworth will begin the season in the big leagues, even though he struck out in nearly 35 percent of his at-bats last season and carries a career minor league batting line of .217/.285/.414.
In the Marlins’ case, Skipworth may be the best option on a team that really is without any legitimate options. Florida traded away catcher John Buck during the offseason and lost Brett Hayes on waivers. Rob Brantly, picked up in last summer’s Anibal Sanchez trade, will be the starter, but until Mathis returns, the Marlins only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Skipworth.So unless the Marlins scour the rather thin free agent marketplace or convince manager Mike Redmond to become a player/manager, Skipworth appears to have a clear path to at least a brief big league job. Mathis is projected to miss six weeks as his collarbone heals and there are only five weeks left til Opening Day.
After he repeated Double-A last year, Skipworth didn’t even make the Marlins’ Top 30 Prospects list this year—his report was one of the extras that we published with our “32nd team.” As that report explains, Skipworth has significant problems making contact against quality pitching, and he’s especially helpless against lefthanders (a .535 on-base plus slugging percentage last season and no better than a .600 OPS at any point in his pro career). But he has improved defensively to the point that he can be reasonably expected to handle big league pitchers without embarrassing himself. Considering the Marlins other internal options, that might be good enough to give him a brief big league job.
The non-roster camp invitees aren’t really a threat to push Skipworth aside. The only non-roster invitees in camp are 22-year-old Wilfredo Gimenez (who’s yet to play above low Class A); light-hitting journeyman Jake Jefferies (who has served as a backup for most of his five-year minor league career) and J.T. Realmuto.
If this was 2014, Realmuto might be the Marlins’ best option, but Realmuto, a high school shortstop, has little more than 200 games behind the plate and has yet to play above high Class A. Realmuto has a better arm than Skipworth, but for now, Skipworth is a better receiver.
Fantasy Impact: If you end up with any of the Marlins’ backup catcher candidates, including the now injured Jeff Mathis, your auction or draft went horribly awry. Starter Rob Brantly is the only Marlins’ catcher worth considering.