With the preseason indefinitely extended, the Miami Marlins will be entering the 2020 regular season with more questions than ever.
They had far less playing time by which to measure which players will have the most positive impact in the major leagues this season, given the opportunity. The Miami Marlins seem set behind the plate, with Jorge Alfaro holding down the starting job and Francisco Cervelli set to ably fill in every three-to-six days.
This development again leaves longtime backup Chad Wallach third on the Marlins organizational depth chart. In 2018, he was behind J.T. Realmuto and Bryan Holaday. 2019 would see Alfaro and Holaday filling in as the Marlins 1-2 punch behind the plate. In both seasons, Wallach did manage to play in a handful games at the major league level, 34 in total with the Marlins.
Wallach is a six-foot-three, 230 lb. right-handed throwing and batting catcher from Yorba Linda, CA. Born on November 4th, 1991, Wallach nonetheless only exceeded his rookie limits during the 2019 campaign. Back in 2010, the Los Angeles Dodgers chose him in the 43rd round of the draft out of Calvary Chapel HS.
Instead of inking a deal for what was likely to be peanuts, Wallach matriculated to Cal-State Fullerton, where he eventually ascended to the starting catcher role in 2013. That year, he hit .309/.395/.444 in 50 games, with 12 RBI. Hardly world-beating figures to be sure, but the Miami Marlins were intrigued enough to spend a fifth round choice on him after his collegiate season came to a close, the 142nd pick overall off the board.
Over the following two years, Wallach worked his way up to the Single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League. Following 2014, the Marlins sent Wallach and Anthony Desclafani to the Cincinnati Reds for Mat Latos.
Wallach slowly rose through Cincinnati’s system to eventually make his major league debut with the Reds in 2017. He went one-for-11 in six contests, and with only 21 innings of defensive work behind the plate, didn’t have quite the track-record needed to work out just how effective he could be at the major league level.
Following the 2017 campaign, the Miami Marlins claimed Wallach off waivers from the Reds. Although Wallach mostly found himself ensconced at the Triple-A level with the New Orleans Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League, he also got into 15 games for the Miami Marlins. He hit .178 with a homer and five RBI, while throwing out three-of-seven baserunners from the backstop. The 42 percent kill-rate was right in line with the Marlins catching corps that season. Realmuto clocked with a mark of 38 percent, and Holaday led the majors at 45 percent. All three were well above the National League overall rate of 28 percent.
2019 was shaping up for Wallach as if he might pass Holaday on the depth chart, but a late-May concussion put the kibosh on his campaign for good. In 19 games, he hit .250/.333/.375 with six RBI. He threw out two-of-five trying to steal in a pretty small sample size, but was the only catcher of the Marlins “top three” to rate even as well as an average pitch framer, according to Baseball Savant.
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Wallach more than just passes the sniff test on the defensive side of the equation. In 121 2/3 innings behind the plate in 2018, he was 20 runs above the average DRS when extrapolated over a full 1200 inning season. The same formula returned another 10 runs above average in 2019, in 119 frames.
Could Wallach be a diamond in the rough? He seems destined to be relegated once again to the number three man on the catching totem pole, although he tore the cover off the ball for 10 RBI in only 12 games. He was seven-for-18 with two home runs. Defensively, he handled 58 2/3 innings of work without an error.
So what can the Miami Marlins expect of Wallach? They can expect him to cover down as needed, and if he’s thrust into the starting role, he should be able to fill in without missing a beat. He could easily wind up as the Miami Marlins number two guy behind the plate.