The first catcher emerging from the embers of Buster Posey’s opt-out does not carry the pedigree and hype of Joey Bart, the literal magic of Tyler Heineman or the body definition of Rob Brantly, who’s documented his workouts on Instagram.
In fact, kudos to you if you had heard of Chadwick Tromp.
The minor-league free-agent signing from the Reds system, an Aruba native, was a late addition to the pool July 4 — a day after first-round catcher Patrick Bailey made his first appearance in camp. In the rest vs. rust debate after a three-month layoff, Tromp very much looks rested, homering twice in Sunday’s Black-Orange scrimmage at Oracle Park, one off Jeff Samardzija and another off lefty Sam Selman.
Tromp, a 25-year-old regarded for having good plate discipline but not having made his major league debut yet, hammered the ball often last week, too.
It was Heineman and Brantly who had been listed in February as the likely complements to Posey, Tromp seen as minor-league depth. Gabe Kapler was more open-minded after Tromp’s start.
“I think it’s clear right now we have three catchers who are putting their best foot forward and giving themselves the best opportunity to be evaluated,” Kapler said on a Zoom call. “… All three of those guys, Tromp, Heineman and Brantly, have different skill sets that they bring to the table.”
None bring much experience to that table, Brantly and Heineman combining for 131 big-league games. Brantly, a lefty swinger with the most major league time, may have the most power. Heineman, a switch-hitter, is well-regarded for his plate discipline and a better catcher behind the plate. The Giants are hesitant to test Bart after just 22 games in Double-A.
Tromp, a righty, brings bat speed that “is real,” Kapler said. He’s at times hit righties better than lefties in his past, though Kapler said that may not hold true.
“Very good leader behind the plate,” Kapler said. “Already developing comfortable but strong reports with the pitchers. And what I mean by that specifically is: I think pitchers are comfortable with him, but I also think they respect him.”
Winning the rookie talent show surely helped Tromp earn the respect of his teammates. And more camp home runs would make a race that Tromp was not running months ago more interesting.
“I think when we get to the finish line, we’ll have a good feel for who makes our team best on Opening Day,” Kapler said. “And that doesn’t mean that those will be the same two guys that we have a month down the road.”
Chadwick Tromp hit his second homer of the day, and he got an air high-five coming around third and some waves in the dugout. pic.twitter.com/ET9mMu3Qty
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) July 12, 2020
Samardzija was hit hard, allowing two runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings.
“Shark is just getting his arm in shape,” Kapler said. “Nobody knows themselves better than Jeff Samardzija. So while the line wasn’t probably what he wanted it to be, what’s much more important is that he got his pitches and his innings in.”
Will Wilson, the 2019 first-round pick of the Angels whom the Giants traded for this offseason, lined a double off Samardzija, a shot Kapler thought was the hardest-hit of his pro career.
“Will’s not a factor for our major league roster right now,” Kapler said, “but this is an awesome opportunity for him to get reps, develop and open the eyes of the major league staff, and he’s done a nice job of that.”
Brandon Belt remains out with right heel pain, the first baseman on the sidelines since Wednesday. Belt has been in a walking boot, but Kapler said he believes there’s enough time for him to be ready by Opening day.
“He continues to progress,” Kapler said.
Kapler said he’s been in “close contact” with Hunter Bishop, still away and out of the pool after testing positive for COVID on June 26.
“He wants to be here,” Kapler said.