Grading the 2014 catchers


It has been just under a year ago that the Texas Rangers re-signed catcher Geovany Soto to a one year deal and announced that he would be the primary catcher in 2014.   During the 2013 season A.J. Perzynski was the primary catcher and there might have been an outside chance he would have remained with the club if it wasn’t for his on the field differences with ace pitcher Yu Darvish.   The re-signing of Soto and making him the primary catcher didn’t have many fans jumping for joy.

As it would turn out Soto would have less of an impact that ESPN’s Tim MacMahon has predicted.  Things started off well for Soto during spring training, but after only 6 games he torn his left knee up and had to have surgery to correct it.  He spent a majority of the season on the disabled list.  During his rehab assignment with the double-A Frisco RoughRiders he was arrested after a game for possession of marijuana.

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Luckily the arrest was on a minor citation and didn’t impact his playing time or lead to a suspension. Once Soto did finally join the Texas Rangers it was for only 10 games and didn’t have much luck at the plate only batting .237 with 1 home run and 3 RBI.  He did play well enough to grab the attention of the Oakland Athletics.  Before the game on August 24 he was pulled from the lineup and the team announced he was heading to Oakland.

It was a bit odd because that night he spent the time saying goodbye to teammates in the dug out.  His departure meant that at lead for now Robinson Chirinos was the primary catcher for awhile.  Overall, the re-signing of Soto was a bust for Jon Daniels and left the team with players like J.P. Arencibia and Chirinos to hold down the backstop position.

Grading Geovany Soto: C- 

He showed promise during spring training and he could have been a decent catcher for the Rangers, but injuries and off-field distractions kept him from achieving that.  The bad thing is he was traded and the only thing the Rangers were able to get back was some cash.

Also during the offseason the Rangers signed catcher J.P. Arencibia to a one year deal.  Another deal for a catcher that seemed less than ideal, but showed promise.

During the 2013 offseason J.P. Arencibia left the Toronto Blue Jays which seemed to make many fans up there very happy.

Fans thought that he was too aggressive at the plate, which lead to few hits and even few walks.  He did show flashes of power in 2013 with 21 home runs and 55 RBI.

Not bad for someone who had a batting line of .194/.227/.365/.592 in 2013.  If you’re wondering why the Texas Rangers decided it sign him then the best thing to is to look at his home runs and his framing ability.  He did hit 21 home runs with the Blue Jays in 2013 and according to scouting reports he is one of the best framers in the league.  You might wonder what framing it.  Framing is the ability of a catcher to bring a ball back in the strike zone in order to get a strike call on a questionable pitch.  Many catchers do this, but only some are considers good at it.

During the offseason J.P. Arencibia acknowledged his lack of discipline at the plate and vowed to work on it with hitting coach Dave Magadan.  During an interview on ESPN radio he said he wanted to have more walks and a better on-base percentage.  But, he did say he would still love to be the guy who its a 3-run homer to take the lead late in the game and win the game.

For the 2014 season it was more of the same for J.P. Arencibia.  He struggled at the plate and for a majority of the season had a batting average around .133 and at one point had the lowest batting average in the league (including all minor league players).  It was no surprise the Rangers sent him down to the triple-A Round Rock Express for a while.  After the All-star break the Rangers recalled him, but this time to play first base instead of catching.  When he first came back he was very hot at the plate.

He hit 6 home runs in about a month and bumped up his batting average to .198, which was almost above the Mendoza line.  But, slowly his numbers started to decline and his power would only show up from time to time.

J.P. Arencibia did do well at first base, but he was an liability at the plate.  He didn’t hit often and walked even less often.  It’s no surprise that he’s now a free-agent.

Grading J.P. Arencibia D-  He did show moments where he had power and consistency, too bad that moment was only about a few weeks after the All-star break.

The Rangers also used Chris Gimenez for a few games this season.  Which should be a surprise, they used just about everyone in their farm system this season.  He played in 34 games this season and caught in 26 of those games.  He had a batting line of .262/.331/.355/.686 with 10 doubles and 11 RBI for the season.  His numbers were clearly better than JPA and his catching ability was just as good.  But, overall it doesn’t seem like he was in the Rangers long-term catching plans.  It was very tough for Gimenez because he took some paternity time off in August and 3 days after he returned the Texas Rangers designated him for assignment. 

Luckily he ended up being traded to the Cleveland Indians.

Grading Chris Gimenez: C+  Gimenez played very well, gave everything he had and was well deserving or more time with the Rangers.  But, over the last few weeks with the Rangers his offense started to decline and was likely why he was DFAed.  He wasn’t part of their long-term plans so it does make sense.  He’s a good player and good guy, hope he does well where ever he goes.

The Rangers also had Robinson Chirinos as catcher this season.  It seemed like he could have been the backup catcher behind Geovany Soto if the didn’t go out and sign JPA to a $1 MM one year deal.  Clearly he would have been the better option and he proved that by basically being the Rangers primary catcher for the season.  He didn’t put up huge numbers, but he was able to do well behind the plate, but he did lose the confidence of ace pitcher Yu Darvish.  Darvish didn’t like the way he was calling a game and eventually made J.P. Arencibia his catcher.

Chirinos has been doing well since he was converted from an infielder to a catcher.  For Chirinos he always felt like was a catcher and it seems like he was right.  This season he did very well behind the plate catching 29 base stealers (40% caught, league average was 27%).

Chirinos put up a decent batting average for a catcher at .239/.290/.415/.705 with an impressive 13 home runs and 40 RBI.  He should have easily earned himself a spot on the 2015 roster with they way he played behind plate and his offense.

Grading Robinson Chirinos: B+ He played better than expected and it seems like he’ll continue to deliver.  Should be a solid catcher for next season.

Finally near the end of the season the Texas Rangers called up one of their top catcher prospect with Tomas Telis.  He didn’t play much, but it seems like the Rangers have a good option for next season if they don’t go shopping again for a catcher.  Over the 18 games he played with the Rangers he had a batting line of .250/.271/.279/.551 with 2 doubles and 8 RBI.  He played well behind the plate and caught one stealing.

Grading Tomas Telis: B+  He didn’t play a lot, but he seems to be very good, power hitter and is able to pop up and catch base stealers.  He seems to be a very good option to backup Chirinos next season and possibly be the primary catcher at some point.

Overall there was some bad and some good.  It seems like some of the bad stuck around just a bit too long, but it really didn’t matter since the Texas Rangers season was over back in June.  Next season hopefully the injury bug won’t chomp away at the Rangers and that they won’t stick with players under performing.