Houston Astros prospect Garrett Stubbs has become used to being promoted from one level to the next during the regular season.
It can be a challenge for a catcher to learn a new staff on the fly, but at least in the previous two seasons, he got to do so about midway through the year.
This time around, the Astros waited until August to move their 13th-ranked prospect up to the Fresno Grizzlies.
"I wouldn't use the word tough; it's just an adjustment period," said Stubbs, a San Diego native. "I've seen a lot of these guys at Double-A [Corpus Christi] on the pitching staff. For the most part, it's usually getting used to new pitchers, knowing what they want to throw in which counts, knowing what their best pitches are and which ones they can locate. It's just getting a feel for the guys on the mound."
Fresno manager Tony DeFrancesco said there are usually three challenges for a catcher making the jump to the Pacific Coast League during the season.
"Understanding the game plan, understanding the pitchers, understanding the opposition," he said. "Everybody is kind of new to him, a lot of hitters he hasn't seen. The Texas League is an eight-team league, [so you] play probably each team 25 to 30 times each. You get a pretty good feeling early in that league. This one, it's kind of spread out. He's coming here the last 20 games, trying to finish the season, making some adjustments."
DeFrancesco said that while he has seen some "growing pains" for Stubbs so far, he added, "I think he'll be fine once he settles in now."
"He just seems like a very athletic-looking player," DeFrancesco said. "He has some speed, some quickness. He blocks well, has a strong arm. It's a good opportunity for him to get a chance to play up here."
Stubbs was an eighth-round pick out of Southern California in 2015. He began his pro career that summer at Class A Short Season Tri-City for 11 games before moving up to Class A Quad Cities for 25 games. In 2016, Stubbs went from Class A Advanced Lancaster (55 games) to Corpus Christi (31 games).
"I like moving up, obviously," Stubbs said. "To be able to move up in the middle of the season gives you kind of a little refresher, too, kind of a new scenery, which is nice. The fact that I got to do it again this year was really nice."
Stubbs raked to the tune of a .304/.391/.469 batting line last season but has hit .243/.339/.334 with four home runs and 35 RBIs between his two stops this year.
"I feel like I've been hitting the ball really hard, not striking out, putting the ball in play," Stubbs said. "As far as the numbers go, they really haven't gone my way offensively this year.
"But I've been focusing on defense. That's what I always try to focus on. My first priority, as is every other catcher's, is defense."
Stubbs will try to help Fresno fight for a PCL playoff spot, but in the end he's just happy to be back in his home state.
"I like it a lot better than the Texas League," Stubbs said. "It's nice to be back in California, in Fresno. The Texas League is a tough league, a lot of pitchers' parks. It's really hot and humid. Losing weight over there is easy to do. I'm not good at keeping weight on in the first place."
Piece of (Baby) Cake: Another prospect making the late-season move to the PCL is third baseman Brian Anderson. The Marlins' No. 3 prospect has gone off since joining New Orleans in July, batting .354/.418/.625 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 27 games.
They went to Jared: Reno has benefited from an in-season promotion on the pitching side. Lefty Jared Miller, the D-backs' No. 17 prospect, has defied the PCL's hitter-friendly nature and gone 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA while striking out 34 in 26 1/3 innings since moving up from Double-A Jackson.
On the move: Just because the first trade deadline passed does not mean that PCL players cannot still be moved from one team to the next. Right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame was recently shipped from the Oklahoma City Dodgers to the Las Vegas 51s, where he slots in as the Mets' No. 23 prospect and will look to lower his 4.31 ERA in 41 appearances this season.