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Looking Ahead: 2011 Catchers

I realized that I inadvertently left the catchers out of my look ahead to the 2011 season, so they’ll go here before I get into the outlook for the minors next week. The catchers as a whole are a pretty boring bunch, highlighted by paying way too much for a now injured Jason Kendall. If only somebody would have thought to mention that it’s a bad idea to ride a catcher in his mid-30s, never giving him a day off… Well regardless of what has happened in the past, the 2011 season still must go on and somebody has to catch the ball thrown by the pitchers. This, like the relievers post, will be done a little bit differently because there’s a chance that neither of the two who finished the season behind the plate for the Royals in 2010 will be back in 2011.

Brayan Pena: In my mind, Pena should be given every opportunity to start next year for the Royals and catch five days a week. While it’s a debate if the fans or Pena suffered more from Kendall’s constant playing time, I’ll give Pena the benefit of the doubt and say that he suffered the most. Prior to Kendall’s injury, Pena hit .186/.280/.233 in 50 plate appearances. Yes, 50 plate appearances through August 7. for a backup catcher. Yikes. As soon as Kendall went down and Pena started getting the bulk of the playing time, he hit .278/.317/.374 which, of course, is no great shakes, but for a catcher, it’s really not bad. Plus we know that Pena has more than that in him.

Lucas May: I’m not exactly sure what to expect out of Lucas May. What I know is that I’m extremely happy the Royals were able to get somebody who may have some value for Scott Podsednik. May is a converted shortstop who was in his fourth year of catching in 2010. From what I saw, he appeared to be about average behind the plate. He has a good arm and a decent release and seemed to understand how to call and command pitches. Offensively, he has some pop as he hit 25 homers in one of his minor league seasons, but he’s nothing fantastic. He’s a guy who you may be able to expect to hit .250/.310/.400 which, again, for a catcher is pretty good.

Unfortunately I don’t see the Royals going with May and Pena both next year. I think it’ll be one or the other. They have a few options, but really only one in the minor league system.

Manuel Pina: Pina is a catch and throw guy. He’s definitely defense first, though his offense took a big step in 2010 toward respectability. It isn’t hard to believe that his bat is developing as catchers’ bats often time longer to come around. Between AA and AAA he caught 42% of runners who attempted to steal and reports indicate that he is a very good receiver. His bat will lag a bit, but he’s the only option the Royals have in the high minors who could possibly be on the 2011 roster on Opening Day.

Because there’s very few options in the system (though catcher is actually becoming strong in the organization in the lower levels), the Royals may look elsewhere and I’ve identified three guys who fit the bill of what the Royals are looking for.

Rod Barajas: Barajas has been around awhile and has a strong defensive reputation. He’ll hit some homers, but has just a .284 OBP for his career. He wouldn’t be a terrible option on a one year deal with an option. He’s a stabilizing force behind the plate and hitting toward the bottom of the order, his lack of OBP won’t kill the offense. He’ll be 35 in 2011, so if they sign him, hopefully the Royals learned their lesson with mid-30s catchers and will give him a day off or two every week at least.

Ramon Castro: Castro has never been THE MAN in his career, but when his spots are chosen wisely, he’s a very good offensive contributor. He’s pretty good defensively and has an excellent arm. He’ll work a walk or two and hit a homerun here and there so he’s not hurting the team too much. He will also be 35 in 2011, but has much less wear and tear than Barajas.

Gerald Laird: The Rangers were always hopeful that Laird would develop into a good bat at catcher, but he’s just never found the tools to allow him to hit well. He’s got very occasional power which has dwindled every year and struggles to get on base, but he commands a game well. For his career, he’s caught 38% of attempted base stealers and allowed just 42 passed balls, which is roughly four innings for a guy like Miguel Olivo. I kid because I love.

So those are the options. Pretty slim if you ask me. Personally, I’d just stick with Pena and May and hope for the best.

  1. Daniel
    October 29, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I take it you’re assuming Myers transitions to the outfield?

  2. October 29, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Sort of. I do assume that, but even if he doesn’t, he won’t be ready as a catcher during the 2011 season.

  3. Patrick
    October 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Myers is another example of how the Royals seem to at least have some pretty young yet close to major league ready bats.

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