06/15/2011 – Turks Tidbits
Written by Nathaniel Stoltz James Madison University
As we celebrate the drafting of five current and former Turks players this week, let’s not forget that many former Turks players, even some from many years ago, are already enjoying professional success.
There are a number of current major leaguers who once donned a Turks uniform, but there are also lower-profile players who have had many productive professional seasons. One such player is catcher Erik Kratz, a former Eastern Mennonite backstop who played for Harrisonburg in the summer of 2001 before being drafted by the Blue Jays in the 29th round of the 2002 draft.
That might seem like a low, long-shot selection, but Kratz has shown that professional success will allow you to keep your job no matter how humble your beginnings.
A career .258 hitter in the minor leagues, Kratz did well enough in the low levels of the minor leagues to eventually get a shot in Double-A in 2005. While he struggled offensively for the next two seasons, his reputation as a strong defensive catcher helped him contribute nonetheless.
It wasn’t until 2007, half a decade into his career, that Kratz started to hit well against upper-minors pitching, slugging .506 in Double-A that season before slugging .510 in Triple-A the next year. Moving to the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate for 2009-2010, Kratz become arguably the top offensive catcher in the Triple-A International League, and his excellent work both at and behind the plate was enough to give him his first promotion to the major leagues with Pittsburgh on July 17, 2010. In nine games with Pittsburgh, Kratz collected four hits and two walks, while gunning down four of seven base runners who attempted to steal bases off of him.
In 2011, Kratz returned to the International League, this time with the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, with whom he still plays with today. The 2011 season has found the catcher in top form, as he’s already clubbed ten homers in 41 games. Kratz has a .277 batting average, .363 on-base percentage, and .533 slugging percentage on the season, which is excellent numbers for anybody; however, they’re especially notable coming from a catcher, since catcher is the most prized defensive position in baseball.
Hopefully this big former Turk can get another chance in the big leagues soon, as he has more than proven he can hit and catch with anyone in the highest level of the minor leagues. While he may not be a household name, Erik Kratz has had a very solid career – one that should certainly make Turks fans proud.