The SF Giants non-tendered catcher Chadwick Tromp and may hope to retain him for next season. However, he has earned a major-league deal.
When the non-tender deadline passed, the SF Giants somewhat surprisingly retained eight of their ten arbitration-eligible players, including right-handed pitcher Trevor Gott. However, to clear 40-man roster spots, the team decided to non-tender three pre-arbitration players, including catcher Chadwick Tromp.
The Giants could re-sign all five players they let go. Henry Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle reported that all three non-tendered pre-arbitration players had verbal agreements to re-sign on minor-league pacts. While an obvious boon for the Giants organization if all three re-sign, it’s hard to imagine them stopping a player from signing elsewhere if they receive a guaranteed MLB contract. Of course, given the suppressed free-agent market, that might not happen.
However, solid backup catchers are always in high demand. Tromp, at a minimum, proved he was a trustworthy backup last season. Yet still just 25-years old, the Aruban backstop might have everyday upside. While he obviously had his struggles this season, he easily played his way into a big-league contract. If the Giants are unwilling to offer him one, someone else should.
Defensively, Tromp was easily the Giants best option behind the plate. While top prospect Joey Bart looked overwhelmed at times and struggled to get on the same page with pitchers, Tromp consistently held his own. He also threw out 33% of opposing base-stealers (Buster Posey’s career mark is 33.06%) and ranked above-average by Baseball Savant’s pitch-framing metric.
Still, Tromp was not an elite defender. His bat would have to make the foundation of any case to offer him a big-league contract. On the surface, that may seem hard to do. In his 2020 rookie campaign, Tromp batted just .213 and posted a minuscule 1.6% walk-rate and an exorbitant 31.3% strikeout rate. What more potential is there for a career .257/.321/.381 hitter in the minor leagues? Well, the answer lies in 2019.
Signed at 18-years old out of Aruba, Tromp moved through the Cincinnati Reds minor league system as a contact-oriented hitter. Prior to 2019, Tromp had never posted a slugging percentage above .352 in a season when he had at least 100 plate appearances. At the same time, he never struck out in more than 20% of his trips to the plate either, even as he faced tougher competition.
Then, things changed. In 2019, with the Reds Triple-A affiliate, Tromp unexpectedly blasted seven home runs in just 90 plate appearances, good for a mammoth .617 slugging percentage. Before he could earn a big-league promotion though, he suffered a season-ending injury.
Normally with such a small sample size, it would be impossible to know if there had been a shift. However, Tromp had hit just 3 home runs over his previous two seasons and 593 plate appearances combined. His strikeout rate also spiked to a record-high 27.8%. While punchouts are never desirable for a hitter, they’re an obvious side-effect of a swing change geared for more power.
The Giants in 2020 saw this power-oriented Tromp firsthand. That inflamed 31.3% strikeout rate was a problem but came with some obvious payoffs. Even with his minuscule .213 batting average, Tromp managed to slug .426 against big-league pitching. Whatever change he made prior to the 2019 season clearly carried over to the highest level.
Furthermore, while Tromp’s average exit-velocity (90.1 mph) was well above-average (88.3 mph in 2020), and his average launch-angle was right in-line with league averages as well, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was just .231. His batting average would jump all the way to .262 and his slugging percentage would have been .475 had just four more balls in play resulted in hits.
He will have to walk more, especially to become an everyday player. That’s not a bad bet though. Tromp was a bit of a free swinger early in his career, but his walk-rate increased every season since 2016, when he walked in just 4% of his plate appearances, through 2019, when he walked at an impressive 14.6% clip. As he gets more accustomed to MLB pitching, there’s reason to believe that walk rate will head in the right direction as well to pair with his power.
The SF Giants non-tendered 25-year old catcher Chadwick Tromp after his rookie campaign, presumable hoping to re-sign him on a minor-league deal. However, they may have gotten a bit too greedy. Defensively, Tromp is already an MLB-caliber backstop. Offensively, he maintained increased power and should be poised to improve with more big-league at-bats. Now the only question is, will another organization offer him an MLB contract to do it?