Will Banfield is the future catcher of the Miami Marlins.
When, exactly, is the question. When the Marlins traded J.T. Realmuto to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2019 campaign, they got in return talented starter Jorge Alfaro, top prospect Sixto Sanchez, and pitcher Will Stewart. Although Stewart hasn’t played himself onto anyone’s radar (yet), Sanchez may be ready for the big time, and Alfaro is an exciting backstop, if no Realmuto.
Alfaro is still 26-years-old, and under contract with the Marlins until the end of the 2023 season. If they were so inclined, they could retain Alfaro as their starting backstop for the four seasons until then, and groom the still 19-year-old Banfield (he turns 20 tomorrow) to join the club sometime as the backup likely in 2022.
Will Banfield was chosen by the Marlins in the Competitive Balance Round “B” in the 2018 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, with the 69th overall pick off the board and signed a deal with a $1.8 million bonus. For a little contrast, 42 percent of players picked 69th overall have gone on to the major leagues, led by outfielder Tim Salmon (1989, California Angels, 40.6 WAR) and Bronson Arroyo (1995, Pittsburgh Pirates, 23.7 WAR).
After his selection, Banfield split the rest of the 2018 season between the rookie-level GCL Marlins in the Gulf Coast League, and the Greensboro Grasshoppers, in the Single-A South Atlantic League. In 39 games, he slashed .238/.308/.385 with three home runs. He also threw out 39 percent of runners trying to steal, a good start to a professional career.
In 2019, Banfield spent the entire season with the Single-A Clinton LumberKings, in the Midwest League. He backstopped 93 games, appearing in 101 contests in total. His slash line regressed to a mark of .199/.252/.310, although he took a solid step forward defensively. He threw out 46 percent of base-stealers, gunning down 43-of-94 – so not a “small sample size.” He also did his part in getting the LumberKings to the MWL Postseason.
Does Banfield have the ability to continue improvement up the chain of the Miami Marlins minor league affiliate feeder system? Folks in central Florida will likely get a gander at him through the 2020 season with the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League. His path forward, conventionally speaking, would see him with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in the Double-A Southern League in 2021 and with the Wichita Wind Surge in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2022.
Making any sort of impact in full-season ball at the tender age of 19 is special in itself. Banfield’s special defense is exactly what the Marlins envisioned when they spent such a high draft pick on him. If his offense can catch up to his defense, the Marlins may have a stalwart behind the plate when Banfield’s time comes.