Sunday, January 08, 2012

Green Diamonds: Bryce Massanari, C, Asheville Tourists (Class A, SAL, Colorado Rockies)

Name: Jonathan Bryce Massanari
HT: 6’2”          WT:  215
Born: April 29, 1986 in Las Vegas , NV
Acquired: Colorado Rockies , 30th round, 2009 June Amateur Draft


This Southern Nevada CC and Georgia alumnus has shown a hot hand in this, his first season in the Sally League. It’s not exactly like he was an unknown commodity prior to this year; from the beginning of his college career, he showed a knack for clutch hitting and plus power. He set a Nevada prep record for career hits with 222, was a three-time All-State selection and hit nearly .500 for his senior year (.492), along with 8 HR and 46 RBI. He was a First Team All-Region selection as a freshman at Southern Nevada while posting a team-high .435 OBP along with a .469 SLG %. He was a medical redshirt in his sophomore year because of a foot injury, but came back in 2007 to bat .325-11-65 with an amazing 30 RBI recorded with 2 outs. Massanari was a 1st Team All-SEC selection as a junior. His last college season added even more accolades to his already-impressive resume: his 19 homers was good for 6th all-time on Georgia’s single season list, again showed a propensity for clutch hitting with 24 of his 57 RBI coming in 2-out situations, he was named Second Team All-SEC, and became the 8th Georgia player to hit three homers in a game after hitting three homers in as many AB April 3rd-4th.


He certainly looks the part, with a prototypical catcher’s build. Sloped shoulders, good upper body strength and a thick, sturdy base help him to drive through the ball with relative ease. He carries himself with a quiet coolness and appears every bit the confident player in all facets of the game. While he certainly doesn’t appear very athletic, this is a pretty common occurrence with catchers. After all, how many Joe Mauers or Jason Kendalls can there be?


Massanari doesn’t get cheated at the plate, as he usually takes a big cut. He’s not quite a “grip it and rip it” type at this level, though may fall into that approach when he is faced with better pitching at the higher levels. While he has fairly quick reaction time, his swing is a little slower than you’d like to see from a young hitter with the history of success that he has. Even so, he wastes little movement in getting to the ball and tracks pitches well. When he connects, which thus far this year is often, he can put a real charge in the ball. As he makes the rounds in the Sally, there’s no doubt that he’s going to put fear in the hearts of moundsmen everywhere. Once he reaches Class AA and faces better breaking pitches I would expect him to struggle mightily for some time until he adjusts. He will probably end up being an all-or-nothing type of batter if he makes The Show. He doesn’t take much of a stride, preferring instead to use the powerful torque he generates from his hips. As I mentioned before, his solid base helps him to keep his balance very well and he squares up the barrel often. He’s got plus power and puts a lot of air under the ball, and can drive it to left and left-center, but needs to work on driving the ball the other way in order to take full advantage of his power. He certainly can create the leverage to do this on a regular basis. Massanari has a long history of performing under pressure (at least as far as prep and college are concerned), and I see no reason that this wouldn’t carry over in his pro career. He can be made to chase out of the zone, but can handle the slower curves.


As I said before, he’s definitely built like a catcher. As such, his baserunning speed leaves something to be desired. Since we’re not talking about a leadoff hitter here, I’m not putting a lot of weight (ahem!) on this subject, and he will learn to make up for the lack of speed by learning to be smarter instead of faster. He takes a comfortable lead but is visibly aware of his shortcomings in the speed department and plays accordingly.
At this stage he is just a click above being a station-to-station runner, and that’s not going to get a whole lot better.


Massanari sets a very low target for his pitchers, sometimes even sitting in half-Indian style with one leg outstretched, ala Tony Pena. He gloves the short pitches easily and shifts left to right adequately. Of note in this regard is the two letters he earned while in high school as a TENNIS player, a game which demands strong lateral movement and quickness of foot. You don’t find too many catchers who can make this claim. He also appears to be at least average in blocking pitches in the dirt. Massanari frames pitches well, but can sometimes hold the ball a bit longer than he should, which brings out the impatience in some umpires and could lead to them squeezing his pitchers in the later innings. His pop times are sub-2.00 consistently, but his footwork coming out of the crouch could use a little work and his glove-to-hand transfer is a little slow. He seems to be relying almost purely on arm strength, and could end up above-average in controlling the running game with a little work on these issues. He appears confident in calling pitches; he gives the sign, takes the pitch, and almost immediately gives the next sign. He helps his pitcher maintain a good rhythm because of this.


Massanari looks the part of a late-round gem, at this point. He does have some rough edges in certain areas, but most of it can be corrected with a little coaching and some hard work. My main concern is that he’s facing players who are 3-5 years younger than him in the SAL, and his numbers show the results of this, but only to a point. The talent is certainly legit. However, as is the case with so many others, his eventual promotion to AA ball will tell the story. Still, there’s reason to believe that he will make the adjustments necessary to compete at the higher levels. Conditioning will be of primary concern as he reaches his late 20’s, and he doesn’t have any leeway in this regard. He can’t afford to lose agility or speed, because that would be the kiss of death for a player like him. I would project him to be at least a solid 2nd catcher in the Majors, assuming he can make the changes required to play higher than A ball, but either deconditioning or the inability to adjust to the breaking ball would keep him from ever leaving the minor leagues. He’s a solid overall catcher at this stage, but he’s probably not going to win any Gold Gloves (at least, not as a catcher).

.275, 18, 65 (as full-time ML catcher)

2012 Season:
It's do-or-die time for Massanari, as he's not getting any younger. Granted, catchers often take longer to develop, but come April he turns 26, an age when many hitters are either in The Show or bagging groceries. I still see him as becoming a viable MLB backstop, but if he can't progress through AA this year, he might want to think about a new profession. I expect he'll make the adjustment. 

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