Miguel Amaya is showing the Cubs why he can be a big part of the future
In his 12th big-league game — and only his 7th start at catcher — Miguel Amaya came so close to accomplishing something every backstop dreams of.
Amaya and Kyle Hendricks weren’t quite able to finish off the no-hitter in San Francisco but it still represented a very impressive feat for the rookie catcher.
“Miggy was great; he was locked in,” Hendricks said the day after that start. “The adjustments we made in between innings with Miggy was huge.”
Amaya has sort of become Hendricks’ personal catcher, as the rookie has teamed up with “The Professor” each of the last three times out. Starting with that outing in San Francisco, Hendricks began calling his own game using PitchCom and it’s yet another perfect way to help Amaya learn on the fly during his first MLB season.
As Hendricks selects his own pitches in certain spots, Amaya calls the game along with him mentally. He thinks through what he would call in each spot and then notices the differences if Hendricks chooses a different path.
Amaya has been so impressive behind the plate, even the Cubs middle infielders have taken notice.
“Miggy’s been great behind the dish. I love the way he catches the ball,” Dansby Swanson said. “He’s a big body — you don’t really realize until you’re next to him how well put together he is. He’s a big target No. 1. I know guys like throwing to big targets. It feels comfortable for them.
“He’s obviously done such a great job being able to stick balls behind the plate. He’s been really good for Kyle the last couple outings.”
On Friday against the Orioles, Hendricks felt like Amaya earned him a bunch of strikes on borderline pitches with his framing.
“He’s unbelievable back there,” Hendricks said. “And the coming in between innings, making the adjustments — he sees the hitters perfectly. He knows what they’re trying to do. Whether they’re getting on the plate, off the plate, certain things like that — seeing different visuals.
“He just sees the game for what it is real well. Loved working with him. He’s gonna be great for a long time.”
The Cubs haven’t thrown too much at Amaya in the early going, only putting him behind the plate a couple times a week with a few starts here and there at DH against left-handed pitchers.
Between starts, Amaya is working with the Cubs coaching staff and veteran catchers (Yan Gomes, Tucker Barnhart) to develop every aspect of his game. On Tuesday, for example, he caught a bullpen for Justin Steele as he worked his way back from the IL and also Marcus Stroman’s between-starts bullpen.
That not only allows Amaya to learn all the pitchers on the staff but he uses the opportunity to work on his framing and also prepare as if he’s in a game, pretending there are different counts and hitters.
“The days I’m not playing, that’s like my game so I have to take it that way,” Amaya said.
He has certainly turned heads in the Cubs front office with his performance.
“The thing all pitchers talk about throwing to him — even the fielders — is just the level of poise has been really impressive,” Jed Hoyer said. “Of all the positions, that’s the hardest one to come up and break in because you’re handling so many different things and being able to handle it with enough poise to have a veteran pitcher be able to pitch to you, call a game, things like that.
“It’s really, really difficult. He did that really well. All the players were commenting on it. Dansby came in right away, Nico [Hoerner], saying, ‘this guy has a level of calmness and poise.’ They were surprised by that. That’s the biggest thing that’s stood out.”
Amaya has held his own offensively, too, with a .243/.383/.405 slash line (.788 OPS), 2 homers and 6 RBI through his first 48 MLB plate appearances.
What’s been most impressive about Amaya is that he’s accomplished all of this without much game experience the last few seasons.
The pandemic and elbow and foot injuries have limited Amaya to only 91 games in the minors since 2019 and just 36 of those have come at the catcher position.
Because of that, Amaya was something of a forgotten asset in the Cubs farm system — even after the organization added him to the 40-man roster following the 2019 campaign.
While many fans and outside pundits have been focused on top prospects like Brennen Davis, Pete Crow-Armstrong and Matt Mervis, Amaya has quietly come up and delivered a strong contribution to the big-league club this season.
“His confidence [has stood out],” Jed Hoyer said. “He takes really good at-bats, doesn’t panic at the plate. … There’s real thump in the bat.
“He’s a guy that people sort of forgot about — and we did, as well. He was at the alt site and he was so good in 2020. And then 2021 and ’22 were sort of lost seasons for him where he had the Tommy John and Lisfranc injuries.
“He’s reminding people why he was a top prospect now.”