Cleveland Indians Prospect Profile: Tony Wolters

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With Yan Gomes on the shelf for 6-8 weeks, the Cleveland Indians are in need of a quality back-up catcher. Is prospect Tony Wolters ready for big league action?

The Cleveland Indians drafted Tony Wolters as a shortstop in the third round of the 2010 draft. He played middle infield for two years in the minors before the Indians, at the recommendation of manager Terry Francona, moved Wolters behind the plate in time for the 2013 season at Class A Advanced Carolina. 

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Wolters has reportedly handled the move well and, according to Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group this spring, the 22-year-old prospect got an excellent review from Francona:

"The biggest compliment came from [Akron RubberDucks manager] Dave Wallace. He said if you didn’t know he made the conversion to catcher you’d never know it. You’re talking about someone with an interesting skill set. He’s a left-handed hitter who can catch and play short and second."

Wolters played his first full season in Double-A in 2014, hitting .249/.319/.314 in 94 games. He tallied 85 total hits, including 18 extra-base knocks, and drove in 34 runs. At just 5-feet-10-inches, Wolters is not — and never will be — a significant power threat. He has gap-to-gap power, however, and he is capable of driving the ball to all parts of the field.

Where Wolters lacks offensively is in his ability to consistently get himself ahead in counts. He was a .312/.457/.392 hitter when he’s able to work the count in his favor last season, but posted an abysmal .169/.176.202 mark when falling behind.

Defensively, Wolters has proven capable of handling the load, as he threw out 47 percent of attempted base-stealers last season, gunning down 25 of 53 runners. Even Indians catching coach and former Tribe All-Star Sandy Alomar Jr. noticed drastic improvement over the last two springs: 

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"He was a little antsy last year. He asked a lot of questions. Now he understands the craft. He’s doing a tremendous job. And the guys who have worked with him in the minors have done a great job. I think he’s going to be a good catcher if he continues on this path. He works hard, that’s the main thing, and he listens."

While there is a chance Wolters can develop into a regular catcher at the big league level, it is more likely the club sees him as a super-utility man who is capable of being in the lineup every day at multiple different positions.

Some fans are clamoring for his call to Cleveland, as the Tribe deals with the loss of Yan Gomes, but with just under 100 Double-A games to his name and no experience at the Triple-A level, it’s too early to give Wolters a look in the majors. There is no need to stunt his growth as a short-term fix.

For now, get comfortable watching a tandem of Roberto Perez and Brett Hayes behind the plate on a regular basis.

Next: Prospect Profile - Tyler Holt

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