Chicago Cubs left-hander Justin Steele broke away from his locker and entered the visitors' clubhouse at Nationals Park last week with a destination in mind.
Across the room, Steele found Miguel Amaya and approached the young catcher with a brief message, commending the 24-year-old's pregame bullpen performance.
Amaya didn't play above Double-A Tennessee when the cubs promoted him to fill while Yann Gomes was sidelined on the seven-day concussion injured list. Tommy John surgery and a Lisfranc injury sidelined him for most of the last two seasons. Since 2020, Amaya had only started 32 minor-league games before earning his first big-league call-up.
He appeared in six Cubs games, starting four at catcher.
“He's an incredible player, incredible person,” Steele said. “I have had the privilege of meeting his family, just beautiful people inside and out. I really know Amaya as a person. I know he's a great kid. He's just an incredible talent, hitting, on the plate, behind the plate.
He has got the talent to do whatever he wants to do in this game.”
Earlier on Wednesday, the Cubs optioned Amaya to Triple-A Iowa. won 10-4 against With Gomes out the St. Louis Cardinals are set to come out of IL. it represented a minor-league promotion for Amaya and, more important, he positioned Chicago well to become the Cubs' long-term option at catcher. Gomes, who turns 36 in July, has a $6 million club option for 2024 with a $1 million buyout, while Tucker Barnhart is owed $3.25 million next year, though he has an opt out in his deal .
Amaya made the most of his moment and provided a glimpse into why he is a highly rated prospect in the Cubs system. He looks set to be a key addition to the cornerstone the Cubs have locked onto the roster over the past six months. This development is just as important for the organization as he showed during his week in the majors.
Team president Jed Hoyer said, “I'm reluctant to overstate it because he's been injured so many times … but I think a healthy version of him is going to play a long time in the major leagues.”
Amaya's work with the pitching staff was praised. His lack of rep behind the plate did not hinder the Cubs pitcher. Jameson Tallon commended Amaya's pregame preparation and going over opposing lineups, which began the night before tryouts. After her final outing, Hayden Wesneski said that Amaya “blows my mind” with how ready she was.
The Cubs clearly value defense-first catchers who can handle everything from calling the game to blocking and framing. However, Amaya's scandalous profile should not be overlooked. He showed a good vision and understanding of the field. He can walk and count. And he can generate hard contact and some pop — five of Amaya's 13 balls in the game were hard hits.
Hoyer said, “He handled the crews very well, and I thought it was really impressive to see those guys win and the veteran guys comment on their calmness.” “And there's no doubt it gives a lot of confidence going forward. He's a guy who's been a top prospect for a long time. He's had two big injuries and hopefully now we can stay healthy.”
Bullpen coach Chris Young said Amaya shuts down every meeting to take notes and digest feedback. Young, a former scout, sees a lot of tools within Amaya that translate well at the major-league level.
“Whenever you can feel as a catcher, it's really, really important to me when you're out there, it just sends such a great message to your pitchers and allows those guys to relax a little bit in the moment.” is,” Young said. “He has this drive and this desire to really help the pitching staff, and has created a lot of top-shelf pitchers in the game.”
Gomes and Barnhart have served as a resource for Amaya in big-league camp and during his week-long stay in the majors. The two note how Amaya keeps asking the right questions and how she's always working to be better.
Barnhart said, “The times I've seen him catch in the big leagues, he looks like a big player, looks like he belongs.” “He's definitely got a bright, bright future. I don't see why he couldn't be the starter.
Added Gomes: “He did a tremendous job, got nothing but praise from everyone here. He impressed a lot of people.”
Amaya rejoined Iowa and understood everything that goes into hauling a major-league pitching staff. One of the most difficult transitions for a young catcher making the jump to the big leagues is realizing the importance of every pitch and the scrutiny that comes with it at this level. He doesn't seem daunted by the challenge.
“I know all these guys, I know what kind of chemistry we can have for the Games,” Amaya said. “I love working with all the pitchers here. They give me so much confidence. They trust me too.