#30: Kai Gronauer Scouting Report

Gronauer enjoyed his best season in 2010

The current state of the Mets catching in the system leaves room for anyone to grab the advantage on the depth chart. St. Lucie catcher Kai Gronauer seized that opportunity with a strong year split at two levels. What makes Gronauer the system leader? Check out his scouting report to find out.

Vital Statistics
Name: Kai Gronauer
DOB: November 28, 1986
Height 6'1"
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Status: Free Agent Signing (2007)

International free agents generally create a buzz upon their signing. However the buzz can be muted when the free agent is signed out of Europe. Such was the case when the Mets inked St. Lucie catcher Kai Gronauer out of Germany back in 2007. Then, Gronauer was considered the top baseball player in his native country, but he was surely in for a change upon arriving at the Mets complex in 2008.

Since then, Gronauer has made a relatively slow but steady climb and became the leading catching prospect in a system very much in need for a catcher to assert himself. After a first season spent in the Gulf Coast League, the organization got him moving with a year spent in Savannah in 2009 before a stock-climbing season split between Savannah and even more impressive stint in St. Lucie in the latter half of 2010.

"I'm not necessarily more comfortable; it's not the pitching that dictates how my game goes, it is more about me," Gronauer told InsidePitchMagazine.com earlier in the season. "Since I've played a full year now, I kind of know what's going on, what to do in certain situations and how it stay on track when I feel good at the plate."

He showed that comfort level in stretches during the 50 games he spent in Savannah to begin the season. There he hit .267 with two home runs, 23 RBI with a .349 on-base percentage and a 32/18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 191 at-bats. But it was the jump he made upon his promotion to St. Lucie that opened eyes.

In 38 games with in High-A, the first he had ever played the level, Gronauer hit .324 (45-for-139) with two home runs, 20 RBI and a .375 OBP. That showing prompted the organization to test Gronauer in the Arizona Fall League during the off-season. Coaches who worked with him were not surprised by the maturity he displayed.

"When he arrived, I sat him down and told him that he was the catcher of the ball club and that he was the quarterback of the team and that on-field decisions were going to go through him," said Sand Gnats manager Pedro Lopez. "I think he just did a great job and the results showed in his game and with the pitching staff when he was here."

Now the next step for Gronauer is continuing the momentum he has created for himself. Without a predominant catching prospect in the organization, Gronauer can take the opportunity by the reins. The learning curve has, as expected, been longer for a European baseball product, but the backstop made a name for himself with his 2010 performance.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2010

St. Lucie

.324

139

45

2

20

18

1

10

26

.375

.403

2010

Savannah

.267

191

51

2

23

23

3

18

32

.349

.361

2009

Savannah

.243

230

56

6

23

27

0

13

45

.294

.352

2008

Gulf Coast League

.356

45

16

0

10

4

0

2

6

.408

.378



Batting and Power: Gronauer is fairly limited with the bat, but he makes up for it with sound mechanics and strong plate discipline. He boasts average bat speed, but helps himself with good pitch recognition and a willingness to force pitchers to stay in the strike zone or just off the corners. He does not walk or not strikeout much which speaks to his ability to put the ball in play. He does not have a lot of pop and is not a much of an offensive prospect, but he knows how to work the count and he rarely swings himself into trouble. Nevertheless, how he adapts to higher level pitching will determine whether he can stick as a big league regular or whether he is strictly a reserve catcher.

Base Running and Speed: Like most catchers, Gronauer is not a runner. He is not a stationary object on the basepaths, but speed does provide any additional asset to his overall stock. He is a station-to-station runner and that is unlikely to change in the near future.

Defense: Behind the plate is where Gronauer's strengths lie. Further playing time made him more comfortable and it showed. Gronauer's mobility improved to where he became very proficient blocking balls to both sides, making him a security blanket for his pitchers and giving them the option to pitch out of the zone and in the dirt when needed. Catching a staff with command pitches help Gronauer further develop his framing technique which he struggled with in the past. He made the most significant strides in his management of the pitching staff.

Gronauer generated positive reviews for his ability to handle a young staff in Savannah in 2009 and that continued this season. While it is not as much of a tangible defensive metric, Gronauer understands pitch counts and situational pitching which gives him a strong relationship with pitchers. He shows a strong throwing arm that will play at the highest level, boosted by quick catch-and-throw mechanics.

Projection: There is not a true standout tool to Gronauer's game. He is a sound hitter with no specific offensive tool that will carry him. Yet, he shows consistent enough tools with the bat that combined with very sound technical skills behind the plate can get him to New York on his current projection. He does not need to stand out with the bat as he moves up, but at the least he needs to show higher-level pitching will not overwhelm him. The defensive tools are there with enough stick that he should carry him to New York as a backup.

ETA: Late 2012. Gronauer could return to St. Lucie to begin the 2011 season, but with a catching void at the highest levels, chances are the organization uses his Arizona Fall League stint as a spring board to send him to Double-A to begin the season. He should remain in Binghamton where he will have a familiar staff to work with and a shot to play his way into a cup of coffee debut sometime late in the 2012 season.

InsidePitchMagazine.com Recommended Stories