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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Breaking Down the NL East: Catchers

I should call Brian McCann Carl Lewis because he is the run away winner of the top catcher ranking in the National League East and possibly the best catcher in the NL altogether. While there may be some other able bodied backstops in the division, none have the offensive ability as McCann and none play such a large part in their lineup. A couple of these guys have been part-time players or really 2nd year guys with very little to show for their abilities overall. The group as a whole is rather underwhelming so it was not difficult to rank McCann….

First (Score 1.125): The Atlanta Braves catcher led in every evaluated category but one (slugging with RISP and two outs), and there he came in second. For the past couple of years he has been the best catcher in the division not even really getting any competition from guys like LoDuca, even when he was a bigger name. McCann has shown that he can hit for power and for a decent average solidifying himself alongside Chipper Jones as one of the main offensive threats on his team. This year he’ll go for .301/22/91 and surpass Chip as the big guy in the lineup.

Second (2.5): Who? Yes the guys name is Jesus, but can Flores be the savior of a lowly Nationals team? Last year he saw somewhat regular playing time and was able to put up decent number, .256/8/56 in 90 games. Over 162, he may post pretty respectable numbers especially when compared to the other offensively anemic catchers in the division, aside from McCann of course. He may also become one of the more vital bats in Washington’s lineup, but everyone will have to wait and see for sure. For 2009, I see a slight drop in power, but a better average: .262/6/41 for a guy who will find a secure spot on a team for the next few years.

Third (3.125): Another thorn in my side as somehow Brian Schneider of the New York Mets edges into third place. Consistently mediocre over the past couple of years Schneider is the prototypical plug and play player. He’s not a great offensive threat, nor does he have unbelievable defense, but he is reliable enough to keep his job in baseball. He has found a home in New York for the time being, but if anyone needs a catcher, Schneider’s name is going to come up in a trade rumor. He’s a good enough player to have on the roster however I don’t think he’s the answer to anyone’s catching dreams. This year will be much of the same for the Met backstop. .253/9/41 is what it will be in 2009.

Fourth (3.25): You wouldn’t know that Carlos Ruiz is required to start for the Phillies if you lived outside of the city of Philadelphia. He is possibly the best defensive catcher of this group, throwing out approximately a third of all base runners and handles all of the pitchers very, very well and that’s why he plays. He has no offense but came through when needed during the playoffs last year. As long as he hits a little bit above his weight, he will keep his job, well at least until the team gets a good look at Lou Marson. Ruiz is being projected at .224/4/36 as he sits in the eighth spot in the lineup. I would probably hit the pitcher ahead of him though.

Fifth (4.875): The Florida Marlin’s John Baker was a 27 year old rookie last year and performed admirably for a team who tried to beat expectations but found itself where it deserved to be, out of contention. He batted .299 with a .392 OBP in 61 games and although there are no guarantees that he can continue that on a full time basis, he has been around long enough that there should be much of a drop off. Next year he may be ranked second, but for the time being, I’m comfortable leaving him in fifth until he gets a full season under his belt. He should hit around .261/7/48 and if he does that he may find himself an honest to goodness big league baseball player.

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