Here are two catchers who should be available for $1 in most leagues that have a good chance to outproduce that price due to their power.
Last year, a Rangers’ catcher with a baseball bat was kind of like a mule with a spinning wheel; nobody knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it*. Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the sentiment remains. Other than the Mariners’ backstops, you could make a strong case that Texas catchers combined to have the worst offensive season in baseball. They hit .214/.288/.320 while muscling just 13 balls over the fence despite playing in hitter-friendly Arlington. 2011 should prove to be a different story as the Rangers traded for Mike Napoli and signed Yorvit Torrealba to don the tools of ignorance – instantly upgrading production at the position.
Napoli qualifies as a catcher, but will likely end up being more of a rover; receiving more starts at first base and designated hitter, leaving a majority of the catching atbats to Torrealba. As a Padre last season Torrealba had arguably the best season of his career, hitting .271/.343/.378 with seven home runs and seven steals – incredibly hitting .312/.394/.429 at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. While the home numbers are inflated by an unsustainable .396 BABiP, he is moving to the hitter friendly confines of Arlington. Marcel projections, which don’t take parks into effect, project Torrealba for eight home runs in 2011. Given what a good hitter’s park Arlington is, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him pass that number this season.
*Any chance I get to weave in a Simpsons’ quote, I’m going to take it
Most of the attention garnered by Tampa Bay Rays’ catchers last season was centered around John Jaso. That kind of thing happens when you hit .263/.378 (AVG/OBP) with five home runs, and four steals in 404 plate appearances as a rookie. Kelly Shoppach went unnoticed as a result – and with good reason. He missed more than a month due to injury and hit just .196/.308/.342 with five home runs and 17 RBI in 187 PA’s.
The Rays are going to platoon the two backstops, leaving the right handed Shoppach to do what he does best – mash left handed pitching. He has a career .949 OPS against southpaws, compared to just .679 against RHP. While 2010 was a down year overall Shoppach still showed he had a little pop, posting a .193 ISO against LHP. That number is good, but a far cry from his absurd 2008 and 2009 totals of .272 and .321. If healthy, and properly platooned – 2010 was the first time in three years he had more PA’s vs LHP than RHP – there is an excellent chance he could find his power stroke once again and cross the 10 home run barrier.
A side note: If I’m wrong and he falls flat on his face, look for newly acquired Robinson Chirinos to get a shot at the right handed platoon role.
Erik writes for DraysBay and has also written for Bloomberg Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ehahmann.