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Sweat the technique: Banfield demos skills

@JimCallisMLB
March 15, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins made Will Banfield a supplemental second-round pick last June and paid him a $1.8 million bonus, more than double the assigned value for the 69th overall choice, in large part because of his defensive prowess. Banfield didn't begin catching until high school but quickly became

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins made Will Banfield a supplemental second-round pick last June and paid him a $1.8 million bonus, more than double the assigned value for the 69th overall choice, in large part because of his defensive prowess.

Banfield didn't begin catching until high school but quickly became adept at the game's most demanding position. Some scouts considered him the best defensive catcher in the 2018 Draft and he also had one of the strongest arms at any position. He immediately showed it off in his first pro game, nabbing all three basestealers who dared to test him.

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While Banfield's arm is his best tool, it's far from his only asset behind the plate.

"He's pretty good besides the pure arm strength," Marlins farm director Dick Scott said. "He has good footwork behind the plate. He gets his feet under him very quickly -- he has middle-infielder feet behind the plate. He's quick, concise, not a lot of wasted motion.

"He did an especially good job of handling the pitching staff. He blocks well. He has a good frame of mind, such an easygoing guy."

A product of Brookwood High (Snellville, Ga.), Banfield also has solid bat speed and raw power. He hit three home runs in 15 games following a late-season promotion to the South Atlantic League, where he was the fourth-youngest (age 18) position player in the Class A circuit.

MLB Pipeline caught up with Banfield on the back fields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex and asked him to demonstrate some of his defensive techniques.

When Banfield sets up to receive a pitch, he goes into a deep crouch and keeps his mitt about knee high. He'll keep his weight further back if the bases are empty and shift further forward if runners are on base and he needs to be ready to throw. He was charged with five passed balls in 22 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, then didn't muff a single pitch in 14 SAL contests.

"I'm always going to make sure that I have a really good target," Banfield said. "I'm leveled out, shoulders level, I'm not tipping anything and I'm also going to make sure my glove's placed in the right spot for when I'm calling the pitches. … You really want to have the same spot and setup every single time because there's always someone in the dugout or in the stands that's going to try to pick up on what you're doing."

There are several skills that go into making a standout defensive catcher, with most teams these days placing the utmost value on framing ability. Banfield said he puts a lot of work into presenting pitches to an umpire in the best light possible.

"Whether it be a fastball, curveball or slider, I'm always going to try to get out in front," he said. "I don't want to try to catch the ball deep because the umpire can't see where the pitch is located. So really for any pitch that's coming, I'm going to try to just beat it to a spot, make sure I'm in a good position to get to that pitch and make sure I'm not doing too much movement with my body and my glove."

Banfield pitched before he caught and built up his arm via long-tossing. His arm strength has translated well from the mound to behind the plate, and he enhances it by getting rid of the ball quickly and making accurate throws. He says his favorite thing to do on the diamond is throw runners out, and he erased 38 percent of basestealers in his pro debut.

With runners on base, Banfield sets up with his weight closer to the plate. Once the pitch is delivered, he dives his left knee inside a bit to start generating momentum toward the base to which he'll have to throw.

"My big objective is really just getting my knee started, come forward when the ball is coming," Banfield said. "I'm not just sitting back waiting on the ball. I try to attack the ball and throw them out. Stay low with my shoulders, stay down with my shoulders and down through the zone and straight to the base."

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.