Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

The Road to The Show™: Miguel Amaya

Cubs No. 3 prospect has skills, mind-set to thrive behind plate
Cubs prospect Miguel Amaya has thrown out 37 percent of would-be basestealers in four Minor League seasons. (Freek Bouw)
September 14, 2020

Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.

Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken to reach the brink of realizing his Major League dream. Here's a look at Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Amaya. For more player journeys on The Road to The Show, click here.

The path to becoming a big league catcher is like no other.

Like a starting pitcher, you have to know the strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of the opposing lineup, but not just every fifth day -- every day. You have to survive the physical ordeal of spending hours in a crouch, trying to snag wayward pitches while being pelted by foul tips. And you have to find the time and energy to develop your own offensive game. There are just 30 starting catcher jobs in the Majors. Cubs prospect Miguel Amaya is only 21, but has already shown he has the tools to grab one of them.

Amaya, who signed with the Cubs out of Panama for $1 million in 2015, was the youngest qualified batter in the Class A Advanced Carolina League in 2019, yet still managed to post a .351 on-base percentage while hitting 11 homers, catching 91 games and throwing out 35 percent of potential basestealers. That’s a tall task for anyone, let alone a youngster two-and-a-half years younger than the average Carolina League position player.

The Cubs added Amaya to their 40-man roster in November after he played in two consecutive Futures Games and was named to the 2019 Arizona Fall League Rising Stars squad. He likely would have begun the season with Double-A Tennessee had the coronavirus pandemic not intervened, but the time off hasn’t dimmed his prospect status at all. MLB Pipeline added him to its list of Top 100 prospects just last week.

Though none of Amaya’s individual tools seem overwhelming, he’s above average in everything but speed -- hardly a concern for a 230-pound catcher. With Myrtle Beach in 2019, he cut his strikeout rate to 16.8 percent and lifted his walk rate to 13.2 percent. His 11 homers with the Pelicans may not seem like a lot, but only 16 players in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League hit more. The total package is compelling: MLB Pipeline thinks he could develop into a .260 hitter with 15 to 20 homers a year and quality defense behind the plate. Any team in the league would love to have that.

Amaya made a strong impression in his first Major League Spring Training earlier this year, despite going just 4-for-25 in 13 Cactus League games. Cubs starter Willson Contreras, who has taken the youngster under his wing, has found Amaya an eager student.

“Every time we have the opportunity to talk, he listens,” Contreras told the Chicago Tribune. “And that’s one of the things l like about him: He listens and can learn from seeing us.”

Chicago manager David Ross, a former catcher himself, also had nothing but praise for the 21-year-old.

“His presence behind the plate is really clean and I like his setup,” Ross told MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez in March. “He’s a leader back there. He’s got great hands for a catcher. He seems to be connecting with Contreras and asking the right questions, yet still staying quiet as a rookie should.”

The Cubs control Contreras through the 2022 season, and switch-hitting Victor Caratini has proven himself a more than adequate backup in the Windy City, so there remains a question of opportunity for Amaya, the club's No. 3 prospect. If Chicago chooses to trade him, he could provide a valuable return. Despite losing the chance to develop in Minor League play this year, he looks to be Major League-ready in 2021.

If and when he reaches The Show, he’ll be joining a select group in more ways than one. Only 65 Panamanian-born players -- including Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Mariano Rivera -- have suited up in the Major Leagues to date.

“It means a lot to me because there are not a lot of players from the Majors from Panama,” he told the Tribune. “I would like to be part of those people who made it.”

John Parker is an editor for MiLB.com.