This article is part of a series of posts that act as an alternate version of a scouting report. If you are interested in learning the answers to the most simple prospect questions, feel free to check out this and more at the Prospect Snapshot homepage.
Who is he?
Miguel Amaya was signed by the Cubs as an international free agent in July of 2015 out of Panama for $1.25M. He is a 21-year-old, right-handed hitting catcher with a really solid frame at 6-2 and 230 pounds. His lower body has continued to build out over the years since he signed, going from a 160 pound teenager to a grown man with the legs of a hitter that will generate plenty of power and produce many innings behind the dish. Amaya has spent four years in the Cubs system, starting in the Dominican Summer League and spending a full season at four separate affiliates during his time in the organization. He spent the 2019 season with High-A Myrtle Beach.
While national publications and Cubs prospect writers have remained steady on their feelings toward Miguel as a prospect, the entire Cubs world has really started to take notice over the last year as he was added to the 40-man roster and spent time at the 2020 alternate site in South Bend. The backstop is clearly one of the top four prospects in the Cubs system and you can arrange him in any order with the trio of Brailyn Marquez, Brennen Davis, and Ed Howard on your list.
What do the numbers look like?
The things you absolutely love to see are the stats at his last three stops on the minor league ladder (Short Season Eugene in 2017, Low-A South Bend in 2018, and High-A Myrtle Beach in 2019).
2017: 20.1% K, 4.5% BB, 71 wRC+
2018: 19.0% K, 10.4% BB, 114 wRC+
2019: 16.8% K, 13.2% BB, 122 wRC+
Amaya has been nearly three years younger than average at each of those stops and has improved his plate approach significantly while progressively becoming one of the best hitters in his league. I implore you to look past the non-advanced metric stat line in Myrtle Beach, as a .235/.351/.402/.753 is terrific in that ballpark, and his .259 BABIP only suggests there is even more luck coming his way in the batting average department if you’re into that sort of thing.
What makes him good?
Amaya’s skills have been ever-changing throughout his time in the Cubs organization. What began as a reputation for having a Willson Contreras-like arm behind the plate morphed into a very well-rounded defensive backstop. That defense-first approach then translated well to his intangibles behind the plate. Although he has been very young for his age at each stop in the minors, his elders love pitching to him. Amaya has been complimented for his ability to get the most out of his battery mates by calling a great game and stealing pitches on the edges.
Over the last couple years it has been his power that has come into focus, flashing pop not only to the pull-side, but to the opposite field, too. He put on a show at the 2019 Futures Game batting practice that caught many eyeballs for his raw power. Being able to display that skill outside of Myrtle Beach’s pitcher’s heaven will be nice to see.
But to me, it is Amaya’s ever-improving plate approach that might be the most impressive. Young catchers often don’t display those levels of improvement until much later in their careers and Miggy’s ability to develop very quickly is something to keep an eye on.
What needs some work?
It comes down to two major things here. The first is whether or not that raw power can translate into games. A big hurdle for that skillset is that jump from High-A to Double-A, and it will be interesting to see exactly how much of that seaside air in Myrtle is to blame for his ability to get the ball out of the park.
While his appoach at the plate assists in guiding that hit tool to a better grade because of his on-base skills and shrinking strikeout rates, Amaya still has more to prove in the quality of contact he makes. He can get pull-happy at times, not because of his inability to go the other way as a mindset, but because he gets caught out on his front foot and rolls over on the ball. His strength can help him get away with that at the lower levels of the minors but he will need to improve on his balance at the plate moving forward.
When could we see him in Chicago?
The only way we are going to see Amaya in Chicago in 2021 is as a starter or as a September call-up. There is a possibility that comes quicker than expected due to a Contreras trade or injury, but I think it would be detrimental to his development to be called up to Wrigley to be the #2 catcher at this point.
Your sights should instead be set on 2022 where he could either debut as the Opening Day starting catcher on a Contreras-less Cubs team, crack the Opening Day roster as a part of a creative Amaya (C/DH)/Contreras (C/DH/OF) situation, or take over starting responsibilities after a trade deadline deal that sends Willy C away. Let’s make things clear: Miggy is still blocked by Willson Contreras behind the plate. And to be completely frank, an ultra-young catching prospect can do a whole lot worse than gaining in-game experience from a bunch of MLB vets in Iowa.