Friday, February 03, 2006

Baseball - Rangers Top Prospects - Mike Nickeas

Update on the former Jacket catcher Mike Nickeas:

The Skinny
The Rangers drafted Nickeas out of Georgia Tech primarily because of his skills defensively. He is somewhat comparable to a Taylor Teagarden, with less offensive ceiling and slightly less polished on the defensive end. However, that’s not exactly a bad thing, seeing that Teagarden was just about as polished defensively as a catcher can get coming into the MLB draft. Still, Nickeas impressed at the plate pretty much from the beginning in 2004. He went on to hit .288/.384/.494 for shortseason Spokane and earned himself a promotion all the way up to AA Frisco, skipping two whole full season minor league levels.

This year, Nickeas struggled at the plate all season while battling some injuries. It is hard for the Rangers to get extremely disappointed in his performance at the plate in 2005. After all, what did they really expect when sending a 22 year old catcher with a questionable bat from shortseason A ball to AA ball? The fact that he remained in AA the entire season despite the massive struggle at the plate speaks volumes to the confidence that the Rangers have in him, especially defensively and handling the pitching staffs.

The Future
Nickeas comes into the 2006 season on a high note after hitting .425 in limited action (40 AB) in the Arizona Fall League. One could say that it was Nickeas’ way of saying not to count him out just yet. Although Teagarden has gotten more hype since being drafted this past season, Nickeas still has the leg up on him with a full season of AA under his belt and with Teagarden being sidelined, or at least slowed, by his offseason Tommy John surgery. Expect Nickeas to start the 2006 season at AA and don’t be surprised if he finishes the season at AAA. There aren’t any catchers holding down the Oklahoma job this season and there won’t be any prospects blocking his route. If he stays healthy, hits fairly well, and continues to excel defensively, he could get a look in AAA. Remember, he only turns 23 later this month.

It is safe to say that Nickeas projects as a backup catcher in the major leagues for right now. His solid defense is sure to keep him on rosters for quite some time, but the question remains as to whether he can consistently get it done with the bat. After all, if Einar Diaz can hold down a starting job in the majors for a few years, why can’t Nickeas get a look?