Organization: Oakland Athletics || 2016 club: Stockton Ports (A-Adv.)
Position: C || Age: 22 || DOB: July 22, 1994 || Birthplace: Maracay, Venezuela
Acquired: July 22, 2010 (undrafted free agent) || 2016 prospect rank: None
2016 stats: 84 games, 289 AB, .263/.329/.356/.686, 19 2B, 2 HR, 29 BB, 62 K, 5 SB
- Raga’s 2016
A converted infielder that has the build, strength, and swing mechanics which could combine to develop some interesting power at the plate, 2016 was Argenis Raga’s first crack at High-A Stockton, and in 84 games, he put up respectable enough numbers as a catcher in the California League. He played the most games of his career so far, and as such, set quite a few career-highs in counting stats. But he also showed off improved patience and comfort in working deep counts, an observation suggesting a more mature approach, at least when compared to his immediately-previous statistics from 2015 in Low-A.
Raga was also remarkably consistent as the year wore on; he started white-hot the first two weeks of the summer (helped by ripping off seven hits in his first five games) before going ice-cold by mid-May. An adjustment at that point raised his average back right around .260, and from the end of May through the end of the season, he seldom fluctuated in approach or results at the plate. A middling sign, perhaps (Raga is 22 with six years of professional experience), but a decently productive summer, especially considering his position, and a good base off which to build.
Defensively, Raga started 76 games behind the plate and played 678 innings there. He threw out 31 runners and allowed 84 stolen bases (26.9 percent caught stealing), and only made ten errors the entire season for a .985 fielding percentage. He also played 15 innings at third base in 2016, and while that’s not his long-term position, he did come from playing third earlier in his career and could conceivably wind up there in short spurts or as an emergency infield option again later as he ages.
- Scouting Raga
At the plate, Raga has a conventional stance, leg kick, stride, and swing, and his approach—which seems to leave him able to spray the ball to all fields with a center/right-center focus—should allow him to be a moderately successful offensive catcher as he grows. He is well-balanced through his swings and he shows the ability to make significant two-strike adjustments, cutting down on the size of his stride and his swing in an effort to punch line drives into play.
Here is Raga’s 2016 spray chart, per MLBFarm.com:
A lot of singles and not a lot of extra-base hits, to be sure, but he has a mature approach at the plate and is willing to take the ball where it’s pitched. He’s generally able to both keep his hands in on most inside pitches, as well as extend to shoot a ball to right field if he’s pitched away. With that ability to hit the ball to all fields, and good balance in his approach and a swing that’s short to the ball, I think there’s a good chance Raga will develop some decent gap power and maybe even a little home run power as he ages compared to what he’s previously shown in his career.
Defensively, Raga is about what you’d expect from a converted infielder who is (relatively) new to catching: he’s proficient, and athletic, with abundantly soft hands. He’s still learning how to call games, though, and how to work with pitches and do the far more experience-based, technical catching duties like pitch framing. There’s no question he can throw, and he seems intelligent and in control behind the plate, so there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to develop into an at least league-average professional catcher, though—probably most likely as an eventual backup or platoon option.
- Going Forward
Raga still has ample development left ahead of him, if only because he’s such a relatively new convert to catching (2015 in Low-A was his first significant foray into working behind the plate). He can pick up the position quickly, though, and he should probably get a chance to do so next summer in Double-A as opposed to repeating in Stockton. However, he’s still a bit of a project back there and he’ll need to continue to learn some of the nuances of handling pitchers and calling a game that he’ll soon need to make second nature.
At the plate, his approach and swing will likely end up proving to be proficient enough as he rises and adjusts level to level; he’ll mostly likely never hit for average, but he showed encouraging patience at the plate this summer and with a swing short to the ball that’s also generally long through it, he could be a gap-to-gap threat with the bat. For a catcher, too, his duties beside the plate must be put into relative context, and that could help leave enough room for error for him to grow.
All that said, it’s likely left that Raga’s future role is that of a big league backup, or a platoon option at best. Without having gotten an extended look at many other catchers in the Athletics’ system, my gut says Raga is more talented—and has more ability still to bring out behind the plate—than simply living out a future as organizational depth. He must actually show off the power that the offensive side of his game suggests could be coming, and his defensive and mental skills behind the plate must continue to develop as he reaches the high minors, but moving Raga off the infield and behind the plate might just prove to be a smart move yet.