Chicago Cubs top prospect (no. 14) Miguel Amaya made his big league debut last week when starting catcher Yan Gomes went down with a concussion. Amaya made a seemingly flawless transition to the majors for a guy thrown into a situation where he had not previously caught a lot of the pitchers he worked with. He even garnered the praise of first-time battery mate Hayden Wesneski after Amaya caught his six-inning quality start against the Miami Marlins on Sunday where he struck out six batters and gave up a single earned run.
What’s even more impressive is that before making the most of this stint on the active roster, Amaya had not even played in Triple-A yet. The Cubs plucked him off the AA Tennessee Smokies roster where the 24-year-old began the year. But Amaya does not look like a AA player, he looks like a capable major-league catcher. And although he was only around for a week, the small sample size suggests he is more capable than current backup catcher Tucker Barnhart.
Again the sample size is small, but Amaya called his games well and kept his pitchers in the game. He has gotten this type of praise for his abilities as a catcher for years now.
Miguel Amaya's first 5 balls in play in the Majors flew off the bat at…
His first MLB hit was 67.4 mph.
"That exit velo stuff is overrated, isn't it?" joked manager David Ross.
"Baseball gods, man," said Amaya.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 6, 2023
Even though he didn’t have much to show for it, Amaya also put together some gritty at-bats with several deep counts and hard-hit balls. Unlike Barnhart, who is batting just .182 on the year with no home runs, 2 RBIs, and an OPS of .450, Amaya has delivered convincing plate appearances at the dish.
Unless the Cubs are willing to carry three catchers, which seems unlikely because they seem content with keeping Eric Hosmer and Nick Madrigal around, Amaya won’t be on the roster unless Barnhart or Gomes go down with injuries. Barnhart also has a player option for next season, which he will likely exercise to guarantee his $3,250,000 salary for 2024. Unless he turns the offensive game around in a dramatic way, no other teams will offer him more than that.
Barnhart’s contract is looking regrettable by the day especially because it’s for multiple years. The Cubs did not know how well Amaya would play, or even at all considering his recent injury history. But now they have another young player that will likely be a big part of the core who also needs reps at the big league level to succeed. But he is blocked by another underperforming veteran.