So far this spring, the one player outside of Manny Ramirez that seems to be drawing the most interest from the fans is newly acquired catching prospect Robinson Chirinos. Last week we wondered aloud if Joe Maddon would give Chirinos some work at the middle infield, increasing his chances of making an impact with the Rays at some point this season.
Well, as you can see in the picture at right, Chirinos fielded grounders at second base prior to yesterday’s game against the Yankees. Chirinos, who converted to catcher in 2009, has only played one game in the middle infield (second base) the past two seasons.
While he has only 15 games above triple-A, many think — including Maddon — that his bat is major league ready. Last year, between double-A and triple-A, he hit .326 with a .416 OBP, 18 home runs and an impressive 43-to-44 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
But what is holding Chirinos back is his lack of experience behind the plate. If he can show that he can still be a productive defender in the middle infield, he could give Maddon the positional flexibility he desires on the bench, and a third catcher. A third catcher would give Maddon the ability to pinch-hit for his starting catcher late in the game and still have a backup available in case of emergency.
Of course, we still need to see Chirinos do this in a game. But we have a feeling it is coming.