Name: Gavin Collins
Team: AAA Columbus Clippers
Weight: 205 lbs
2019 Stats (A+): .262/.325/.395, 389 PA, 21 2B, 30 BB, 52 K
2021 Stats (AAA): .156/.301/.195, 93 PA, 3 2B, 14 BB, 28 K
Facts & Info
Gavin Collins was a 13th round pick for the Indians back in 2016 out of Mississippi State and has had an interesting trip so far positionally. He was a catcher for MSU in 2014 and 2015, then moved to third base in 2016. While he was drafted as a catcher at a time the Indians were desperate for catchers, he played exclusively 3B for the Scrappers as a rookie. He continued mostly at third at Lake County the next year, although he did mix in some time behind the plate. In 2018, injuries cost him most of the season but he did flip to being a catcher the majority of the time with Lynchburg with significant time still spent at third. In 2019, still with Lynchburg, he stopped playing third entirely and was mostly a catcher with some time spent at first. Now, he has skipped Akron and is one of four catchers for the Clippers.
Collins’ poor offensive performance so far in his minor league career could be part of the reasoning for his move behind the plate as he doesn’t hit well enough to merit a starting third or first base role. During his three seasons with the Hillcats he hit .255/.318/.410 across 202 games with his best numbers coming in his age 23 season in 2019. Those numbers have fallen even further since joining the Clippers. On a positive note, Collins is a very solid hitter of doubles and can hit for moderate power to all fields. Interestingly, however, nearly all of his home runs have been pulled despite the fact that he has beaten up the gap in right center quite often for extra bases. While his line drive rate could be better, he is a fairly consistent fly ball hitter, giving him plenty of opportunities for home runs or doubles. Over his career, his walk rate has been very low, but his strike out rate is acceptable.
In addition to not hitting well enough to play first or third, he has been absolutely horrendous at both infield positions defensively. This, and his usage in 2019 across Lynchburg and in the Arizona Fall League as well as his usage in 2021 make it seem that he is now permanently behind the plate. There, he is tolerable, but not great. His best defensive ability is his strong arm that has lead to 37% of base stealers caught over his career and 42% in 2019 alone.
Speed & Intangibles
Even though he has played four defensive positions (add in right field for five games in college to 3B and 1B), you can’t really say Collins is versatile due to poor defense. He could, however, fill in at any corner position in a pinch. As you would expect of any catcher, he has negligible speed and should never be expected to steal a base. He’s athletic enough to get to second on a double and that’s all that should be asked of him.
The Indians obviously favor defense over offense among catchers (as seen by their choice of Austin Hedges and Roberto Perez for the big league club), so Collins needs to become a better game caller, framer and overall defensive catcher if he wants a shot. His offense isn’t great, but that doesn’t really enter into the discussion at this point. That will be until Bo Naylor is ready for the big show.
As the older of two prospects among Colombus’ catchers (the other being Gianpaul Gonzalez), one might think that Collins would be the obvious fill in should the Indians need to go to the third string, but they have already made that choice once and it was Rene Rivera. Ryan Lavarnway and Wilson Ramos also sit in Columbus and would likely be the next choices due to their lengthy MLB experience. Behind them, the long time drought in catching talent is coming to an end as Naylor sits in AA while Bryan Lavastida and Michael Amditis have good potential with Lake County. This means the time for Collins to strike is running out and he’ll have to make some big noise in AAA very soon if he wants a shot in Cleveland in 2021 or 2022.