Saturday, September 18, 2004

Daily Prospect Report 9/18

Ryan Garko, C/1B/DH, Cleveland Indians
Drafted 78th Overall, 2003 Draft, Stanford
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'2", 225 lbs

The Indians have another catcher who can hit. Garko isn't polished behind the plate, but he's more competent with the glove than Craig Wilson, Eric Munson, Justin Huber, and Matt LeCroy. He'll never be a good defensive catcher. But when a guy has a bat like the one that Garko has swung this season, he's an asset wherever he's playing. He wasn't ranked in the top 200 prospects for the 2003 draft by Baseball America, but he was a middle of the order beast for Stanford. He was a first team All American. The Indians believed and drafted him in the third round. He's rewarded them by making it to the International League in his first full season.

He started the year in Kingston of the Carolina League, where he demolished pitchers to the tune of .328/.425/.609 with 34 extra base hits in 238 at bats. Next came Akron, where he hit .331/.397/.523 in 172 at bats. He only made it up to AAA Buffalo for the last 5 games of the regular season, but he still hit .350/.391/.400, and made the playoff roster.

The Indians have a decision to make with Garko. He won't push Victor Martinez aside at catcher. But he'll likely be much more than a backup catcher of the Greg Zaun variety. But they also have Travis Hafner, who has put up huge numbers this year at first base. And Ben Broussard has been no slouch either. Plus they have leftymashing Josh Phelps around to platoon with lefties Hafner and Broussard. They could trade Garko, leveraging a leaguewide need for catchers who can hit, or they can turn him into a 1B/DH and leverage a good season by one of their existing players at the low end of the defensive spectrum, or they could get creative, and use Garko as an everyday player in a rotation of giving Martinez days off at catcher, and spend the rest of his time spelling Hafner and Broussard, with Broussard playing some (bad) outfield. There's a whole class of players like Garko and Huber, who while not being their teams best option as a catcher, is still capable of playing there for small amounts of time without being a liability. I think a creative manager could use these guys to more of an advantage than they currently do. To their credit, when the Twins lost Joe Mauer early in the season, they turned to LeCroy as their starting catcher until he himself took a trip to the DL. I think you could easily give you regular catcher a day or two off per week by giving a player like Wilson or Garko a spot start. Lineup flexibility is always a good thing. It helps deal with the adversities of a season.

Garko is clearly a good prospect, one which will likely spend most of his career as a DH and 1B. His ETA is sometime next season. He gets a solid 4 stars.



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