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Local Grad One Step Away From Big Leagues

Edgewood native Luke Maile might not be an established big leaguer yet, but he is not too far off.

The starting catcher for the Durham Bulls, the Tampa Bay Rays AAA affiliate, this season, Maile is just one rung below the Major Leagues and is getting playing time over a catcher who hit over 20 home runs in multiple big league seasons in J.P. Arencibia.

Maile might not be topping out any prospect lists, but Rant Sports points out that he is a sleeper prospect that both fans and the front office may be overlooking. An eighth round draft pick in the 2012 MLB draft, he already has two Arizona Fall League seasons under his belt.

“I think anytime you have a chance to get more at-bats, more reps behind the plate, no matter what position, it definitely helps,” Maille said of his Fall League experience. “Anytime you get that kind of exposure with guys who play the game a little better than you’re used to seeing, it’s only going to make you better as well.”

Catching is the most taxing position as they not only have to call the entire game, but they must do so in a squat. Everyday catchers deal with more wear and tear than anyone else on the team which is why catchers are highly-coveted -- so much so that teams are willing to sacrifice offensive production for a defensively sound player.

It is a defense-first position and defensively, Maile is sound. He boasts a strong throwing arm, throwing out 40% of attempted base stealers in his pro career.

Earlier in his pro career, he also took reps at first base in order to receive more playing time, but now he does not have to worry about that.

An everyday catcher for Durham, Maile understands his role encompasses more than just offense alone.

“As a catcher, you’re in charge of so many things...most importantly, the pitching staff,” he said. “The game is usually dictated on the mound with how well the pitcher is doing, so as a catcher you try to facilitate that as much as possible.”

In addition to his strong throwing arm, Maile has success hitting versus left-handed pitching. He hit .310 with a .390 on-base percentage in 71 at-bats off southpaws last season. Will his success against lefties help him find a spot in the big leagues in the near future?

“I hope so,” Maile added. “Right now I’m just hoping to get an opportunity to get to the big leagues. But left-handed pitching is something I’ve always felt comfortable with and I hope it continues to be like that.”

After graduating from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills back in 2009, Maile went on to have a highly three-year career for the Kentucky Wildcats before the Rays drafted him in 2012. At Covington, not only was Maile a star baseball player, but he played center for the basketball team as well.

To date, Maile is hitting .255 through his first 14 games, but most of his success is still coming off left-handed pitching. Serving as depth to the big league club, he could potentially get the call if anything goes awry for the Rays.

Working to make the biggest jump yet, Maile is making sure that he will be available if the Rays do need a catcher.

“I concentrated a lot on my flexibility and core strength more so than in years past,” Maile said of his off season. “It was just something I want to take a lot of pride in. Also, developing behind the plate with blocking and throwing. The more you concentrate on defense and staying healthy, the better you’ll be.”

-Tom Joyce is a sportswriter for Gatehouse Media and Yawkey Way Report. 

Photo courtesy of draysbay.com