The Boston Red Sox don’t have much in terms of minor league catchers, but they do have Roldani Baldwin. Originally signed back in 2013, the Red Sox originally had Baldwin split time behind the plate and at third base. However, the Sox decided to make him a full-time catcher in 2018, and he’s already established himself as the best backstop in the farm.
Red Sox Prospects: Roldani Baldwin
Just like seemingly every Red Sox prospect, Baldwin had to fight through a significant injury during 2018. The 22-year old catcher injured his thumb in spring training, limiting him to 53 games on the season.
A bat-first prospect, Baldwin finished 2018 with a .233/.282/.371 slash line and an accompanying 83 wRC+. While these numbers don’t jump off the page, it’s easy to explain away the relative down year.
For one, Baldwin missed a sizable portion of the season. Players typically don’t hit the ground running after missing significant time with an injury, so Baldwin’s final numbers are skewed from a slow return. Secondly, Baldwin transitioned into a full-time catcher and probably spent more time focusing on his defense. Lastly, Baldwin spent the entire in High-A Salem. Prior to 2018, Baldwin had never seen pitching this advanced, so a minor dropoff in production is expected.
Baldwin was an above-average hitter as recently as 2017. Spending the entire year with the Low-A Greenville Drive, Baldwin posted a .274/.310/.489 slash line with an accompanying 126 wRC+. He flashed great power, as he finished second in Low-A ball in doubles (35) and slugging percentage.
What To Work On
Like most young catching prospects, Baldwin is still a work-in-progress defensively. The young backstop has a cannon of an arm, but poor footwork has led to accuracy issues. Additionally, he’s prone to passed balls and struggles to call a game.
Offensively, Baldwin needs to work on letting pitches go. Baldwin has a career 17.9% strikeout rate, which is pretty good. However, his career walk rate is just 5.9%. As he climbs the ranks, pitchers will start taking advantage of his inability to lay off bad pitches.
From a health perspective, Baldwin needs to work on staying on the field. Baldwin missed a sizable portion of 2018 with a thumb injury, but this wasn’t his first battle with injuries. Throughout his career, Baldwin has never played in more than 95 games in a season. Minor league seasons are shorter than the major leagues, but Baldwin is still missing a decent amount of time every season.
If this scouting report sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s basically the exact same profile as current Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart. Baldwin doesn’t have the same ceiling as Swihart, but he has a similar outlin.
Baldwin is a hyper-athletic catcher who has the ability to play corner infield in a pinch. Should the Red Sox choose to do so, they could probably also teach him how to play outfield. Baldwin’s bat is better than his glove, and he might not ever be a reliable defensive catcher. That said, he has the raw ability, but has a long way to go before he puts it all together.
Baldwin probably isn’t the catcher of the future, as his ceiling is relatively low. However, that doesn’t mean he has no future in baseball. Baldwin has a decent enough shot to make the majors, but he probably won’t be anything more than an emergency utility player.