Red Sox Prospect Kyle Teel on Developing as a Catcher

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Teel is well positioned as Boston’s catcher of the future. Drafted 14th overall by the Red Sox out of the University of Virginia last summer, the backstop, who turned 22 last week, enters his first full professional season as the fifth-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system and no. 80 on our Top 100. According to our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen, Teel “presents a well-rounded overall profile” that includes “a fabulous offensive résumé.”

His 2023 numbers were certainly exemplary. Teel slashed .407/.475/.655 with 13 home runs in his junior year at UVA, helping earn him first-team All-American accolades and rocketing him up draft boards. Upon reaching pro ball, his left-handed stroke produced a .363/.483/.495 slash line and a 173 wRC+ in 114 plate appearances across three minor league levels, his last stop being Double-A Portland.

Defense is, of course, a major responsibility for catchers. Last month, when Teel was at Fenway Park for Boston’s rookie development program, I spoke with him about his preparation and setup behind the plate, his throwing, and his offensive profile.


David Laurila: Catching is a science as well as an art. With that in mind, what role does data play in what you do defensively?

Kyle Teel: “I really like data when it comes to how pitchers’ stuff moves, and heat maps on what to throw to certain guys at certain times. That’s obviously beneficial, but there is also nothing like the feel of the game. You need to be using your eyes and seeing what you can take in, in the moment. But the data is definitely important. Before every game, I look at what pitchers like to throw, their tendencies in certain counts, and things like that. That’s both as a catcher and when I’m hitting.”

Laurila: Do you think like a catcher when you’re in the batter’s box?

Teel: “I kind of do. There are benefits to doing that, just knowing how pitchers work and what guys tend to throw in certain counts. Overall, I would say that having a good feel at the plate and calling pitches is very similar.”

Laurila: How do you balance data and instincts?

Teel: “Defensively, I think instinct is the most important. At the same time, being able to combine the two to create the elite pitch-caller is what I’m really striving for. Learning data — studying how it works — will help me toward that goal.”

Laurila: Did you get to call pitches in college?

Teel: “I did not, although there were times where I could change the pitch if I didn’t like it. Personally, I didn’t have any issues with [not calling the game], in part because I’m fully confident in my calling abilities. Plus, our coach at Virginia did a great job. He was also really good at studying data and analytics. He’s a former professional pitcher — his name is Drew Dickerson — so seeing how he would call the game really helped me. I could take a lot from what he did.”

Laurila: You being behind the plate, and him being a former pitcher watching from the dugout, makes for an interesting dynamic. The view, if not the viewpoint, is quite different…

Teel: “That’s why if I saw something I was able to relay that to him and change a pitch at times. It’s why I think the dynamic between us worked so well.”

Laurila: How important is watching the hitter and reading his swings?

Teel: “I try and look at it in the most simplistic way possible. If a hitter is up on the plate, it’s going to be hard for him to hit an inside pitch. You’re not just looking at overall tendencies. You can create vulnerabilities, and I try to find those vulnerabilities.”

Laurila: Based on your short time in pro ball, how different is the coaching compared to what you experience in college?

Teel: “I would say it’s very similar, to be honest. Matt Kirby, our catching coach at Virginia, has a very professional way of how he goes about his business. He’s very detail oriented. Everything is very detailed here as well. We go about our business in much the same way.”

Laurila: How do you set up behind the plate?

Teel: “I’m a left-knee-down guy, and I go to two feet if a runner steals. Growing up, and even now, you find people who don’t understand why catchers are on one knee. It allows you to be in better positions to pull strikes and get in front of balls. It makes catching a lot easier, overall. That was the biggest step I’ve taken in my development, going from a two-feet guy to a one-knee catcher. I did that my sophomore year of college — it was coach Kirby’s idea — and while I was a little hesitant at first, I kept at it and it ended up benefiting me a ton.”

Laurila: What are your pop times?

Teel: “I try to be below a 2.0 every time. I want to be as fast as I can and as consistent as I can.”

Laurila: You get high marks for your athleticism. I assume you’re on board with that assessment?

Teel: “Yes. I would say I’m an athlete. I’ve always been interested in other sports. I played football growing up and was a quarterback — a running quarterback, but we would also throw the ball a lot.”

Laurila: You’re not all that big for a quarterback…

Teel: “No. I’m 6-foot-1 and right now about 210 [pounds].”

Laurila: Is that an ideal weight for you?

Teel: “I’m not really focused on my weight. My trainer back home, Mike Guadango, and I have really just focused on my strength and speed training. Whatever weight comes along with that is what comes along with that. I just want to be strong for the season.”

Laurila: My understanding is that your offensive profile is currently more contact than power. Where do you feel you are in terms of power?

Teel: “I would say that my power will showcase as time goes on. That’s something I’m continuing to develop. I’ve been working on getting behind the ball a little more, and looking to lift it a little bit more than I did in college. At the same time, I don’t want to take away [from] my … bat-to-ball skills. That’s a big part of what’s made me a good hitter.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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3 months ago

Great stuff! Fascinating to consider the balance between “feel” and data, in terms of the in-game adjustments per hitter and game situations. I’m looking forward to seeing Teel in the bigs soon. Seems like he has a solid makeup to go with his obvious hitting skills, and that should help in his ongoing development