Padres reap benefits of converting Homza to catcher 5 years ago
When the San Diego Padres drafted Anchorage’s Jonny Homza in 2017, they picked him as a shortstop before trying him out at catcher.
He was a natural fit to catch with quick feet, a high baseball IQ and a cannon arm, but it was still a part-time gig. He was still being used as an infielder while he developed his skills behind the plate.
The experiment is over. The Homza Experience has begun.
The 22-year-old is in the midst of his first full season of full-time catching duties and has emerged as one of the most productive masked men among Padres’ minor leaguers.
Homza leads Fort Wayne TinCaps with a .355 on-base percentage and ranks second in batting average, home runs, RBIs and stolen bases.
The right-handed slugger put up a .903 OPS in his first 208 plate appearances and ranked among the top on-base plus slugging stat lines in the organization’s farm system.
He’s come back down to earth a little earth a little bit, but overall, his offensive numbers this season with the Class High-A TinCaps are the best of his five-year career.
But it’s Homza’s defensive stats that are turning heads.
You’re not supposed to run on #Padres Jonny Homza.
— Emily Waldon (@EmilyCWaldon) June 13, 2021
He has allowed only one stolen base in his last 52 innings behind the plate and his ratio for passed balls has fallen off the table like a 12-to-6 curveball, going from 15 in 118 innings to just two in 370 innings.
Homza was drafted straight out of high school after being picked in the fifth round of the 2017 draft with the 138th pick, the second-highest Alaskan drafted by an MLB team. Almost immediately, he started seeing time at catcher, despite never playing the position in high school.
In his first season of rookie ball, he played 30 games as an infielder and just 19 at catcher. That percentage jumped from 38 to 57 in his second season.
Today, he spends 77 percent of his time behind the dish.
Homza could always hit, but now he’s developed his defensive skills to make him a more complete player, which should translate into another promotion. Hitting catchers are rare and extremely valuable.
The Padres organization has traded several of its top minor-league catchers over the last few years in an attempt to bolster its MLB club’s playoff chances, which could open the door for the Alaskan to rise in the ranks.
Homza is a pure hitter with a line-drive swing. This year he’s added some pop with a career-high 16 doubles, three triples and six home runs in 67 games. His 39 RBIs nearly equal his production from his first two years as a pro when he combined for 41 in 2017 and 2018.