Catcher. Born July 30, 1998, Littleton, Colorado.
Drafted by Cubs in the 8th Round in 2021 from the University of Arkansas
Realistically, on draft day, there are three kinds of catchers. There are the bat-first guys. There are the defense-first guys, and there are the blend types. Starting with the proper premise is useful. For some, the joy is in the masher. He can play behind the plate, but the majesty is in his developing home run power. When that develops, he will hit fifth, and...
That’s not who Casey Opitz is. He was a switch-hitter by age twelve. He’s called his own games since high school. (Calling the game from behind the plate is a rarity in college, regardless the profile of the school.) Opitz is used to all the defensive stuff. Largely a defensive weapon at Arkansas, he got used to all the pitchers on the Arkansas team in 2021, and they were up 1-0 in a three-game series, one win from Omaha. They won the first game 21-2. They would lose the next two games by a run apiece.
People back when used to think that catchers were defense first. That some catchers have gotten really good at hitting has sometimes skewed opinions, but Opitz is that old-school defense-first catcher. In 2021, he threw out 11 of 21 runners trying to steal. And, he got used to the pitching staff, which had a reasonable amount of flux as per the shortened season in 2020.
Upon reaching the Cubs pipeline, he got used to the pitchers in Mesa, at least as long as it took for him to catch a game there. He would then be in a time-share with the catchers in Myrtle Beach. Opitz started 14 of his 15 catching outings for the Pelicans, serving as a DH in one more. More pitchers to learn. After the Low-A season ended, he returned to Mesa, to better know a pitching staff in the pipeline.
The Bat Signal went off, and Opitz was summoned to Des Moines for the last few games of the Triple-A season, with the catchers in Des Moines getting called up to Chicago. Cool, more pitchers to get familiar with. When the minor league season ended, it was back to Mesa to get to know the arms in Instructs better.
Catching isn’t merely putting down fingers to call pitches. A decent chunk of it is having an inside knowledge of which pitches the pitcher toeing the slab has. What does his fastball do? What is his best putaway pitch? Is there a pitch he should probably use more, but he doesn’t have confidence with it yet? Which pitches sequence best after other pitches?
I’m not even remotely worried about Opitz defensively. He’s already displayed his defensive chops in Des Moines. Unless he gets good enough to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft (which would be fantastic for an 8th Round choice), the Cubs will have him for another six years in the minors, barring a change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Of course, he could develop well enough to get better offensively. It wouldn’t take Herculean development to represent a big-league back-up. As his older brother Jake was a Cubs minor league veteran, Casey likely knows how the pro ball thing works. Especially since they trained together in 2020.
Who Opitz is now, on the field, shouldn’t be who he is in three or four years. He developed in 2021 in college. I’m sure he learned things since turning pro. With his gig now being a pro athlete, I’ve heard he was rooming in Carolina with former college teammate Christian Franklin, who the Cubs selected in July’s fourth round. I expect he will get bigger as a pro, and with the added size (and reps against better pitching) might develop into more pop. Perhaps, that won’t happen.
However, Opitz figures to be the primary catcher in Advanced-A South Bend in 2022, or perhaps in a time-share with Pablo Aliendo. Opitz’ effort and dedication will determine if he’s the first Opitz to reach MLB in a few years.I’m not betting against it. Here’s some video.
HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO SAY IT?! DON’T. RUN. ON. CASEY. OPITZ. pic.twitter.com/G46luybzpB— Barstool Arkansas (@BarstoolUA) May 28, 2021
Casey Opitz with the bare handed pick up and ABSOLUTE HOSE. Need a background check for that missile. pic.twitter.com/YsSNGb24h7— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast (@11point7) April 10, 2021