Nathan Hickey Receives Crash Course In Catching With Red Sox

A fairly clear consensus formed around Florida catcher Nathan Hickey in the 2021 daft.

His lefthanded bat should play, but his ability to stick behind the plate was an open question.

The doubts annoyed Hickey. Certainly, he was aware that his offense in college had advanced more quickly than his defense. But he only started catching in college—he also appeared in a few games at third base and first base—and felt that his opportunity to improve behind the plate was limited given that the pitches were being called from the bench.

After the Red Sox drafted him in the fifth round and signed him for $1 million, Hickey was eager to get to work.

“I learned more things about catching in one day (after signing) with Boston than I ever did at Florida,” Hickey said. “Right when I got there, (the Red Sox) said, ‘We’re really going to harp on you with catching.’ They said that’s where they want me to stick.

“I said, ‘I know I’m going to hit. I’ve never worried about that. I want my defense to start thriving.’ “

Considering the demands of adjusting to catching in pro ball, Hickey had a standout first full pro season in 2022. In a year split between Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville, he hit .263/.415/.522 with 16 home runs and a 19% walk rate that pointed to the 22-year-old’s tremendous plate discipline.

Red Sox minor league pitchers enjoyed throwing to Hickey, and he embraced his role. Still, there’s work to be done in developing his game-calling and receiving as well as his ability to control the running game.

Opponents were successful in 87% of 75 stolen base attempts in Hickey’s 57 games behind the plate.

Hickey understands that his prospect path will be forged in no small part by defensive improvements.

“If you’re going to be successful (as a catcher), if you’re going to move up, it’s about making the pitchers be successful,” he said.


— In his MLB debut, first baseman Triston Casas walked in 19 of 95 plate appearances for a 20% rate that was the highest ever by a Red Sox rookie who batted at least 50 times.

— While an ankle injury prevented middle infielder Jeter Downs from playing in the final month of the season in Triple-A Worcester, the 24-year-old is slated to play winter ball in the Puerto Rican League.

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