Robby Hammock spent parts of six seasons in the Major Leagues as a catcher with the Arizona Diamondbacks. So who better to help mold 19-year-old Missoula catcher Stryker Trahan, one of the organization's most prized young prospects?
"As a former catcher, I'm definitely [Trahan's] biggest critic," said Hammock, Missoula's first-year manager. "But I'm also his biggest praiser.
"At 19, there's no way I could do the things he's able to do. I would have gotten my brains beat in. It's impressive. He can do it all, and I'm going to push him."
Trahan was selected by the Diamondbacks in the first round of the 2012 Draft (26th overall) out of Acadiana High School in Lafayette, La. He had originally committed to play collegiately at Ole Miss, but his elevated Draft status, coupled with a reported $1.7 million signing bonus, was enough for him to jump into pro ball right away.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Trahan has the prototypical build for a catcher. He spent last season in extended spring training and then in the Arizona League, and now with the Osprey he can sense his own improvement, though it might seem like a tedious process at times.
"Right now I still feel like I'm getting the groove of everything," Trahan said. "I feel like I've come a little bit of a ways since the first game, but there's always things to improve on. I feel a little pressure [being a first-round pick], but the only thing I can do is go out there and play and do what I can do. I can only control so much."
Hammock says Trahan is an advanced hitter for his age and possesses tremendous raw power. But his progression at the plate hasn't come without a few aches and pains. Entering July 10, Trahan was hitting just .214 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 14 games. Last year in the Arizona League, he hit .281 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 49 contests.
Yet the main focus of Trahan's development isn't so much at the plate as it is behind it -- receiving, throwing, blocking, challenging base runners and handling the pitching staff.
"I can't wait to see him a year from now," Hammock said. "He's still working on his throwing, but he makes some of the best throws you'll see. It's just inconsistent right now. But that's coming along nicely. He's made a ton of strides.
"He's very close to being one of the top defensive catchers in this league, and the more games he gets under his belt and the more situations that come up, he's learning how to deal with them much better. He's got a chance to be very, very, very good."
Trahan says his biggest area of concern is improving his ability to call games. He even contends that a couple of Missoula's losses this season have hinged on his own poor performance in that area.
Nevertheless, Trahan is considered to have all the tools necessary to become a big league backstop. As long as he's in Missoula, Hammock will be there to guide Trahan along. And Trahan will do his best to absorb everything along the way.
"I feel like that's my biggest thing right now, just taking in as much as I can, especially from some of the older guys who have a little more experience," Trahan said. "The guys who went to college have learned more than I have. And even being here with [Hammock], and taking in everything I can, is going to help me in the future."
High mileage: Monday was a scheduled travel day for four of the league's eight teams, so no games were played. But it wasn't exactly an "off day": Billings traveled more than 630 miles for its series at Grand Junction, Great Falls journeyed over 600 miles to Orem, Ogden went about 490 miles to Missoula, and Idaho Falls got off easy with a 260-plus mile trip to Helena.
Royal performance: The Kansas City Royals made Hunter Dozier the eighth overall pick in 2013, and he's been sharp so far as a rookie. Through 19 games, the Idaho Falls infielder ranked among the league leaders in at-bats (76, tied for 1st), doubles (9, tied for 1st), hits (24, second), runs (13, tied for fifth), RBIs (13, tied for seventh) and batting average (.316, ninth). Dozier has also made just two errors in 61 total chances defensively.
Superior command: Missoula righty Felipe Perez followed up his nine-inning shutout July 1 with another dominant performance in his next start five days later. Perez went eight innings, striking out six while allowing five hits and one run in a 6-1 victory over Billings. In his last two starts, Perez has given up one run in 17 innings with six strikeouts and no walks.