GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Discussions concerning White Sox catching for the 2019 season understandably center upon incumbents Welington Castillo and Omar Narvaez.But Zack Collins, the team's top pick in the 2016 Draft and future behind the plate, intends on interjecting his name into the conversation."I'm going to try to break camp,"
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Discussions concerning White Sox catching for the 2019 season understandably center upon incumbents Welington Castillo and Omar Narvaez.
But Zack Collins, the team's top pick in the 2016 Draft and future behind the plate, intends on interjecting his name into the conversation.
"I'm going to try to break camp," Collins told MLB.com during a recent interview in Arizona. "Sometimes you can hit .500 in Spring Training and still not make the team, but I'm going to give it my all.
"Yeah, obviously there's still some development. If they didn't call up Eloy [Jimenez] last year in the last whatever, then I don't really have anything to say. The guy hit [.355] in Triple-A. So trying not to rush the process or think about that, but obviously, I'm going to try to make the team every chance I get."
Collins, 23, most likely won't start the 2019 season with the White Sox, but he made considerable strides last season within and beyond the numbers. He finished with a .234 average and 158 strikeouts over 418 at-bats for Double-A Birmingham, but the organization's No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline worked his way back from a season-opening 2-for-37 slump. Collins also posted a Southern League-best 101 walks, and his .382 on-base percentage left him tied for second overall.
The lower average and high strikeout numbers don't worry Collins, who feels confident the in-season changes he made eventually will get him back to where he needs to be offensively. The White Sox echo a similar sentiment.
"Offensively, it's kind of what we knew: He's going to take a bunch of walks, he's going to get on base, he's going to have some power," White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler said of Collins, who added 15 home runs and 68 RBIs to his 2018 resume. "He makes contact, good hard contact, and he's a guy that I still believe from a scouting point of view, he's a guy that as he goes to a higher level when the strike zone tightens up, he's going to be better.
"You don't want a guy in the lower level that shows patience and the ability to judge the strike zone well -- you don't want him to compromise that because of umpires or bad calls at the Double-A level. As he goes through the system, I think you are going to see, as he gets to Triple-A and the Major Leagues as the strike zone shrinks, he's going to be better off offensively."
According to Hostetler, 98 percent of the scouting industry polled on Collins would have said he's going to hit. Fifty percent of the same would have said he's going to catch.
That catching part of Collins' repertoire has come a long way during parts of three years in the White Sox system. He has taken to the framing metrics, the advanced analytics and the information provided, doing an exceptional job of knowing the zone, getting pitchers ready for a game and calling the game.
"Understanding the game, learning how to catch," Hostetler said. "Some positioning stuff with his feet has really improved."
Taking nutrition to another level has put Collins in solid physical shape and primed for the next catching challenge, although a 2019 callup to the White Sox figures to feature at-bats at first base and designated hitter as well.
"When you look at it now, in our minds, we feel he's an everyday catcher in the big leagues," Hostetler said. "I think as we continue this, you might see him get some playing time at first base or at-bats at DH. But that's just to get the bat in the lineup."
Added Collins: "Defensively, I made huge strides, especially in the last couple of months when we got a couple of the big prospects up like [Dylan] Cease, [Jimmy] Lambert and [Bernardo] Flores. Working with them was awesome. Learned a lot from [Minor League quality control coach Everett] Teaford, dealing with all the TrackMan stuff and everything calling the games and scouting reports. Definitely made it a lot easier, and I'm looking forward to next year."
Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.