Previewing The 2020-21 Free Agent Class: Catchers

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By Steve Adams | September 25, 2020 at 11:00am CDTThe 2020 season is already winding down, and whereas greater than half the gamers in baseball are eyeing postseason bids on this 12 months’s expanded format, free company looms not far past. It’s tough to forecast simply how the market will deal with free brokers within the wake of the sweeping income losses all through the game. Mookie Betts nonetheless acquired paid like a celebrity on his extension, and there’s a basic expectation that top-tier expertise will nonetheless be paid. Many throughout the sport anticipate this to be a frigid winter for mid-tier free brokers, nevertheless, with what is anticipated to be an aggressive wave of non-tenders solely additional saturating the market.
Let’s examine in on the place issues stand on a position-by-position foundation proper now, starting with this winter’s out there catchers. (Gamers’ age for the 2021 season is listed in parentheses.)
Prime of the Class
J.T. Realmuto (30): As has lengthy been obvious, Realmuto stands alone atop this 12 months’s crop of catchers. He’s been arguably the perfect all-around catcher in baseball over the previous a number of seasons, and his inventory has been elevated to new heights with a .272/.355/.512 slash and 11 homers in 183 plate appearances. He was hobbled by some hip issues lately however is 4-for-12 since returning this week. Realmuto’s bat has been 32 % higher than that of a league-average hitter, per wRC+. Provided that the typical catcher is 13 % worse than a league-average hitter by that very same measure, his offense is especially priceless. Realmuto can also be a premier defender and even ranks within the 85th percentile of MLB gamers in common dash pace, per Statcast. It’d be a shock if he didn’t command a deal price effectively north of $100MM.
Different On a regular basis Choices (based mostly on 2020 enjoying time)
James McCann (31): McCann acquired out to a blistering begin in 2019 earlier than his manufacturing cratered, however he’s raking once more on this 12 months’s shortened slate. Via 107 plate appearances, McCann has batted .274/.336/.495, which brings his White Sox complete to .273/.330/.466 with 24 homers in 583 plate appearances. There’s some fairly success on balls in play to contemplate (.354 BABIP), and he’s nonetheless liable to strikeouts, however McCann has emerged as an above-average offensive backstop. His framing numbers are up this 12 months, and he’s maintained a powerful caught-stealing price.
Yadier Molina (38): The Cardinals icon opened some eyes earlier this 12 months when he mentioned he deliberate to proceed enjoying whether or not in St. Louis or elsewhere — a departure from his earlier “Cardinals or bust” mentality — however it’s exhausting to check him enjoying wherever else. He received’t command one other $20MM wage, not with a .272/.310/.375 line by 146 plate appearances, however it sounds as if he plans to proceed enjoying.
Austin Romine (32): After years as a backup within the Bronx, Romine acquired a shot as the first catching choice in Detroit. The Tigers doubtless hoped that final 12 months’s .281/.310/.439 slash was pointing to higher days forward on the plate, however Romine’s .238/.260/.317 line in 2020 fell again towards his lackluster profession ranges. A return to a backup function appears likelier than one other beginning gig.
Mike Zunino (30): Zunino has by no means hit for common and doubtless strikes out too usually to ever achieve this. Nonetheless, he additionally has as a lot uncooked energy as any catcher in MLB and is taken into account a premium defender at his place.
Jason Castro (34): Castro’s large strikeout charges are the trade-off for his wonderful stroll price and his sturdy defensive abilities. After batting .229/.325/.390 in three seasons with the Twins, he’s hitting .194/.310/.389 in 84 plate appearances between the Halos and Padres. Castro has some pop to associate with the OBP and glove, making his low common extra tolerable. He’s been relegated to backup obligation since being flipped from Anaheim to San Diego, so you can argue he belongs within the subsequent tier of this breakdown, however he’s been a starter in every single place besides his temporary run with the Friars.
Backup/Timeshare Candidates
Alex Avila (34): Avila has been a “three true outcomes” backup for a number of years, however whereas the walks and whiffs are nonetheless there, he’s misplaced an important end result in 2020. Avila has homered simply as soon as in 60 plate appearances with the Twins.
Drew Butera (37): Butera appears to search out his solution to the Rockies or Royals yearly. The veteran backup has by no means hit a lot however has carved out an 11-year MLB profession on the energy of his fame as a receiver.
Welington Castillo (34): Castillo was seeking to rebuild his inventory on a minor league cope with the Nats after a dismal two-year White Sox run, however he opted out of the season at first of Summer time Camp.
Francisco Cervelli (35): In a regarding development, Cervelli missed a lot of the 2020 season with one more concussion. It’s the seventh profession IL journey resulting from concussion signs for Cervelli and his sixth since 2017. When wholesome, Cervelli can hit, body and throw effectively, however he’s been on the IL in every of the previous 5 seasons.
Tyler Flowers (35): Lengthy a premium framer who has mashed lefty pitching, the right-handed-hitting Flowers has seen his manufacturing in opposition to southpaws evaporate over the previous two seasons.
Bryan Holaday (33): Holaday boasts a profession 30.7 % caught-stealing price, however his total monitor file on the plate is poor. He’s nonetheless discovered his approach onto an enormous league roster annually since 2012, so golf equipment clearly respect the veteran as a depth/backup choice.
Erik Kratz (41): Kratz retains touchdown with the Yankees — three minor league offers in 4 years — which is sensible as an Jap Pennsylvania native who nonetheless resides close to the membership’s Scranton affiliate. He’ll be 41 subsequent 12 months, however Kratz is as revered as they arrive in clubhouses and will get one other minors pact if he desires to maintain enjoying.
Sandy Leon (32): Leon’s enormous 2016 season with the Pink Sox seems like a transparent outlier, as he’s hit .194/.261/.307 in 4 subsequent campaigns. He’s a top quality defender with nice caught-stealing and framing marks.
Jeff Mathis (38): Talking of nice defenders, Mathis has as sturdy a fame with the glove as any catcher in MLB. His bat has wilted to near-historic ranges over the previous couple seasons, however he desires to play in ’21 and is open to a restricted function as a backup/mentor with the Rangers.
Josh Phegley (33): Phegley has nabbed almost a 3rd of runners who’ve tried to run in opposition to him in his massive league profession. He struggles to get on base however does have good pop in opposition to lefties.
Rene Rivera (37): One other high quality defender with a restricted offensive monitor file, Rivera hasn’t topped 100 plate appearances because the 2017 season. His defensive fame ought to land him minor league affords this winter if he desires to maintain going.
Kurt Suzuki (37): Suzuki can nonetheless swing it higher than your common catcher, slashing .257/.333/.385 in 116 plate appearances. He’s not thought to be a powerful defender, and his longstanding problem controlling the working recreation has persevered in 2020 (5-for-32).
Matt Wieters (35): Wieters has spent two seasons as a seldom-used backup to iron man Yadier Molina in St. Louis. He’s batted .209/.268/.398 with 11 dingers in 221 plate appearances for the Playing cards.
Gamers with Contractual Choices
Robinson Chirinos, $6.5MM membership choice with $1MM buyout: It’s all however a formality that this can be purchased out. Chirinos has acquired simply 30 plate appearances since being traded from the Rangers to the Mets and is sitting on a woeful .169/.241/.251 slash in 2020. He’ll flip 37 subsequent June.
Roberto Perez, $5.5MM membership choice with $450Ok buyout: Perez can be 32 subsequent season and is having a depressing 12 months with the bat, however he’s an all-world defender who ripped 24 dwelling runs in 2019. Perez leads all catchers in Defensive Runs Saved over the previous three seasons — it’s not shut — and his glove alone arguably makes him price this sum even when his 2019 offense was a fluke. That’s very true contemplating his deal additionally carries a 2022 choice.
Wilson Ramos, $10MM membership choice with $1.5MM buyout: Ramos’ second season in Queens has been pedestrian, at greatest (.241/.301/.376). The Buffalo now not resembles the drive on the plate he as soon as was, and he’s all the time been extra of a bat-first choice behind the dish.
Stephen Vogt: The 35-year-old is definitely near seeing this vesting choice kick in — he’d want to look in every of the staff’s last three video games — however that appears unlikely. The D-backs have sat Vogt in all however 4 video games this month, and whereas there’s in all probability a direct correlation between the drop in enjoying time and that vesting clause, the staff can level to Vogt’s .147/.234/.265 slash as clear justification for sitting him.

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