Marlins' Hatcher Has Strong Ending To Rough Year
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.—It's not often that a player calls a season when he batted .197 the high point of his career. But catcher Chris Hatcher found that apex when his ninth-inning, walk-off homer broke a scoreless tie and clinched the second straight Southern League title for Double-A Jacksonville.
"It's something you dream of growing up," he said. "Granted, it's in the big leagues you're dreaming about, but I'll take it down there."
Later that night, the big league dream came true as well, when Hatcher learned he would be spending the next two weeks with the major league team. He went 0-for-6 in limited playing time, though he did draw two walks.
Hatcher, a fifth-round pick in 2006 out of UNC Wilmington, began the season as the fifth catcher on the organizational depth chart. He quickly moved up when John Baker was hurt most of the year, Ronny Paulino received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance and Brett Hayes dislocated his left shoulder in a collision at the plate.
Hatcher, 25, spent the season shuttling between Jacksonville and New Orleans.
"I really didn't think it affected me that much," he said. "I was working on switch-hitting. I had so much going on that bouncing up and down was the least of my worries. I had to get acquainted with pitchers and learn how to change the game a little bit, slow it down a little more and just relax."
Hatcher abandoned switch-hitting after college, but picked it back up this season. Though he didn't get the results he wanted—batting .197/.274/.283 with five home runs in 315 at-bats—his defense remained strong. "Nothing affected his defense," minor league catching coordinator Tim Cossins said. "He's a blast to work with because he's athletic and pliable, and retains everything you tell him. The game-calling has always been real good and it's getting better." I know our guys love throwing to him. He's tough, but not overly assertive and able to make adjustments. He really cares about his game-calling, and that's the most important thing."
Hatcher has a strong arm. He made seven errors with the Suns and five while with the Zephyrs, which the Marlins attribute to overaggressiveness.
"He's at the stage where I'd like to see him level it all off," Cossins said. "He's always been an impact defender."
• With lefthander Andrew Miller and outfielder Cameron Maybin getting traded away, the only remaining pieces from the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis deal with the Tigers in December 2007 are righthanders Burke Badenhop and Dallas Trahern. Badenhop spent most of 2010 in the Florida bullpen, while Trahern missed the season following Tommy John surgery. He is expected back for spring training.
• The Marlins hired former Padres pro scout Mike Wickham to be their director of baseball operations.