This stat shows Miguel Amaya is the next Chicago Cubs star in the making

The best framers in baseball won the World Series last season, and the Cubs should be excited about that.

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The Chicago Cubs and Jed Hoyer placed a large bet ahead of the 2023 season. They believed that defense from the catcher position superseded the importance of a catcher’s bat, choosing to pursue Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart to pair with Yan Gomes, rather than extending long-time catcher Willson Contreras.

While Barnhart was an unmitigated disaster in 2023, the premise of the bet was a wise one: a catcher’s defense is profoundly important. Look no further than the 2023 World Series champion Texas Rangers who featured two of the game’s top three pitch framers in Austin Hedges and Jonah Heim behind the dish.

If we can look at that small amount of data and infer that an ability to properly frame pitches can help a team be successful, then the Cubs should be excited by the idea of a second full season with long-time catching prospect Miguel Amaya.

In 2023, Amaya was the 24th-best catcher in baseball in Catcher Framing Runs. The important piece of data that is left out of that though is he was one of only two eligible catchers with less than 1000 innings behind the dish with the other being the offensively-inept Barnhart. 

While his CFR was better than the league average, the impressive stat is that his strike rate was through the roof at 50.3 percent, good enough for fourth in the league. 

Numbers can be misleading, and in a data-driven sport like baseball where all of your friends have a stat they can condescendingly point to as a validation of their argument, it can be hard to decipher what they really mean.

This will be a big year when it comes to Miguel Amaya's future

I’m not going to tell anyone what to think. When I look at these numbers, what I see is:

  • A catcher’s ability to frame runs helps good teams become great teams.
  • Amaya was above average despite catching about one-third as many innings as the top catchers in the league. 
  • His percentages imply that if he were to be given more of an opportunity he could be even more valuable behind the plate.

If all of that is true, and a former top prospect in his second big league season at the most defensively demanding position on the diamond takes a major leap forward we shouldn’t be shocked. The Cubs are already going into the 2024 season with thebest defense in the National League, so if Amaya takes the step forward we're projecting, they could have the best defense in the last decade.