Unit Recap – Catchers

The Braves had enough other problems to address last offseason that carrying on with the adequacy of Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki was the simplest thing to do, and that’s exactly what they did, with mostly similar results.  Catcher and Right Field are now the only offensive positions where the incumbent starters are over age 30.

Suzuki got 388 at-bats and put together another solid season at the plate, posting a .271/.332/.444 line with 12 home runs.  Baseball Reference credits him with 2.1 WAR, and at age 34, he has now exceeded his career averages of .258/.315/.387 in both of his Atlanta seasons.  Kurt threw out 12 of 62 potential base stealers (19%,) relative to the league average of 28%.

The 32 year old Flowers posted a .227/.341/.359 line in 92 fewer at-bats, the lower at-bat total partly due to missing most of April with an oblique injury.  These numbers are more in line with his career numbers of .239/.319/.390 than his first 2 seasons in Atlanta, which were easily his career best offensively.  Flowers threw out 13 of 57 base stealers, or 23%, and his WAR was calculated as 0.6.  In August, Flowers was given a 1 year extension for 2019, with a club option for 2020.

Chris Stewart, Carlos Perez, and Rene Rivera caught all or parts of 14 games, to no positive effect.

Author: Rusty S.

Rusty S. is a Braves Journal reader since 2005 and an occasional innings-eater. It was my understanding that there would be no expectations.

109 thoughts on “Unit Recap – Catchers”

  1. Allard for Nick Castellanos would be a tremendous deal if they’ve identified they can’t acquire someone better than Castellanos to play outfield. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a butcher, and I don’t like his defense. But he’s got a right-handed bat that will play well leaving Comerica, and Ender and Ronald can cover the rest of the outfield just fine. I don’t like him as a 4-hole bat, either, by the way, and I can’t imagine the Braves do either.

  2. Do you guys think resigning Flowers over Suzuki was a monetary decision or we’d rather have Flowers for his framing skills? Framing is nice, but those stolen bases numbers aren’t. And he doesn’t exactly seem like a bargain at $4m.

  3. @5 I’m not sure we couldn’t find a league minimum catcher to exceed Flowers 2018 performance.

  4. @ 6,

    O. K. Chief, name one?

    @ 5, Hambone

    Really? That is pay for .5 WAR. Without framing and with some time out for injury, Flowers exceeded that.

  5. What people who are predictably/wrongly undervaluing Flowers are trying to get across is that he’s not going to get us to the promised land. Doesn’t mean he won’t generate surplus value on his contract. Flowers more or less embodies the danger of the Braves getting caught in the middle.

  6. @4 The Tigers are a dumpster fire and they are looking to bring in as many prospects as they can. I am sure there would be more to the deal than just Allard, but I am not sure if Castellanos’ defense would be worth it…he is not quite Dave Kingman, but he is pretty bad out there

  7. @5 the SB numbers for Flowers aren’t too far off ML avg. Zuk’s were much worse. The Braves were near the bottom in SB caught %. I like the Flowers signing as a back-up. He has experience with the staff to train whoever the new guy is and his framing skills are still elite. I also think the oblique may have bothered him farther into the season such that the full season numbers may have been better without injury and could tick up next year. He may not have “Ross” power but his OBP numbers are good. He is the very definition of a good backup catcher.

    FG gave him credit for 1.2 WAR so 0.6 may be understating his value some.

    He is not going to move the needle but is not intended to. He will keep the needle from moving backwards.

    The catcher position value for the Braves will be determined by who we bring in. IMHO, anyone other than Realmuto, Grandal, or, possibly, Ramos, would be a huge disappointment. I also like the idea of possibly trading for Schwarber as our new COF and reserving him as our 3rd catcher so we wouldn’t need a Rivera in September or playoffs.

  8. They signed Flowers to be the backup catcher. He’s certainly better than many backup catchers we have had in the past. (Remember the Hamster?)

  9. The Fielding Bible awards were kind to the Braves.

    MLB rankings:
    Freeman 3rd at 1b
    Albies 3rd at 2b
    Dansby 4th at SS
    Camargo 7th at 3b
    Duvall 2nd in LF
    Inciarte 2nd in CF
    Markakis 10th in RF
    Flowers 8th at C
    Teheran 2nd among all starting pitchers

  10. @15 My goodness. That is quite a few folks in the top few. I agree with Kakes at 10th, though his reputation is decided higher.

  11. @13 The Mets just hired a GM ingenue. They’ll never get their act together to trade any of their pitchers. Besides, anyone think Wilpon will approve any trades of stars? He’s old; he wants to win now. Just like Angelos refused to trade Machado at his highest value.

  12. I agree that the Marlins and the Mets will not trade their stars to us.

    @2 I also agree that I rather have McCutchen.

  13. Some of the talk on Twitter is we don’t need right-handed power. We have Acuna, Ozzie and Camargo who have better power from the right side, Flowers, Culberson, Dansby, and the only real left-handed power is Freddie. And yes, all of those things are true, but I’d hate to hit another lefty behind Freeman if we can afford it, and the real need of the team is middle-of-the-order power. And the best way to fill that need is with a RHH. But we also need LHH power, and that’s why we might be looking at more of a roster overhaul than some may think.

    In other news, Steve Phillips is undoubtedly uninformed about what our budget is, but he’s accurate in everything he’s saying:

    If you are looking for one team that could dominate the Hot Stove this winter consider the #Braves. They have young studs on roster with Freddie Freeman locked up long-term. They have close to $59M coming of books. They can afford Machado, Harper and Kimbrel and stay under $160M— Steve Phillips (@StevePhillipsGM) October 30, 2018

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Will they have a OD payroll of $160M? Who knows, and probably not, so his insinuation that we could go get all three of those guys is stretching. But he is accurate that all of those things are true and could lead to a sub-$160M payroll. And if you start with said $160M payroll, you would undoubtedly have top 7-8 OD payroll, and I have no confidence whatsoever that the Braves would stretch even further to adjust for injuries or add reinforcements via payroll at the deadline. So, I don’t think much should be made of it.

  14. Worth noting —

    Duvall was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes this season. As someone with type 1, it’s a hell of a thing. I can only imagine trying to regulate and play pro baseball. Maybe he’ll figure some things out this offseason.

  15. In 2016 the team was so starved for power that trading for the one-legged Matt Kemp improved the team far more than your garden variety WAR calculations could tell you. In cases of extreme team-wide imbalances such a move can help; however, we no longer have such an imbalance (below average team power, especially for a contender, but not a complete wasteland like apr/may 2016).

    Castellanos would help with the power, and along with normal development from Acuna, Dansby and Camargo would move the team to above average in regards to power. The defensive hit wouldn’t be too bad as the team is well above average in that department (I am disregarding synergy arguments about elite defense because Nick isn’t one of those!)

    All together, given the years of control involved, Allard for Castellanos is pretty fair should one value draft position and prior years rankings, or if one is fascinated by a pretty AAA earned run average. We would have to throw in another small piece under normal conditions. I can live with this trade except for noting it likely means no signing of Harper.

    Another trade that makes too much sense to actually happen is for Austin Hedges from the Padres, who just traded for a stud AAA catcher. They need MLB pitching. Teheran plus one of Wilson/Wright/Soroka should do it and give us the best framing combo in the league.

  16. The Braves party line for at least a quarter-century has been that winning the hot stove season is a sucker’s game, and that splashy free agent signings are almost always stupid and wrong. Part of this is sensible and part of it was just due to John Schuerholz’s jacket-and-suspenders belief that all players are overpaid.

  17. It’s now almost TWO DAYS since the free agent signing period opened—and nothing from AA!….the Braves obviously are not interested in the free agent market!!!

  18. It seems Detroit had no interest in playing him at third and instead had him play in a very large outfield. That tells me how bad he was at 3B.

  19. @26 What about that Maddux guy?

    Yes, most FA signings don’t work out and the contracts resulting are onerous. However, certain signings can be expected to work out when you can sign a guy that’s young and on the upswing and has a legitimate track record. I think no one will be unhappy with signing Harper or Machado for the majority of their contract. Probably Corbin, too, although his track record is shorter.

  20. I thought you guys were kind of being ridiculous with your impatience after just one day, but two days has me joining you with the pitchforks. I want deals. I want them now. And I want them to be good.

  21. The Maddux signing was fantastic. Unfortunately, the top of the market free agents signed when Turner was making the decisions didn’t turn out quite so well—Messersmith and Sutter were big busts with the Braves. (Interestingly, though, the signing that got Ted suspended—Matthews—worked out pretty well)

    Of course I’m being facetious with the impatience bit. I’m with you though as to Harper, Machado, and Corbin. I’d be thrilled with any or all.

  22. If I recall correctly, Greg Maddux pursued the Braves. He wanted to play for the Braves because of all the young talent and knew they were going to be competitive for a really long time. He basically made it happen as far as signing with the team.

    I’ve been cautiously hopeful that something like that could happen again where an established star sees which way the Braves are trending and wants to sign here long term on a somewhat friendly contract.

  23. 21—No, he was diagnosed in December of 2011. As a fellow Type-1-er, I am sympathetic (and forever rooting for him, no matter the laundry), but I don’t think that’s the direct cause of any of his 2018 issues.

  24. It’s a legitimate concern. It’s a young team that is likely going to rely on a big stable of young pitchers to get the job done. There’s the uncertainty.

    Not to mention: the Braves best hitter will enter his sophomore season. Ozzie Albies may not duplicate his first half and could just be bad Ozzie for most of next year — if we’re unlucky. Consider Ender and Dansby in that scenario, if neither is on… that could be four hitters in the lineup who are all struggling. This lineup needs some work done to it for sure.

    The Braves could have a bad season and it wouldn’t diminish any hope. I hope they remove some of that uncertainty via free agency and trades this offseason.

  25. Cosigned @37 without amendment.

    When you think about it, almost everything went about as well as one could reasonably hope / almost nothing went horribly wrong in 2018. We caught just about every break — the only major misfortune being Soroka’s injury. That is unlikely to continue. I’m all about cashing in prospect potential for major league certainty this offseason.

  26. I’ve been remiss in not thanking our unit recappers so far. Terrific job, each of you.

    Reviewing the season does reveal how correct @37 and @38 are. Pretty much everything went right last year. The team was good but also lucky. I do think we will see more improvement from some youngsters, but if the team is to improve next year—or even wind 90 again—it will likely take significant roster improvements.

  27. If you had to guess right now, without even knowing who the Braves are going to add, would you guess that their record is better or worse next year or about the same?

  28. I’d guess about the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were a little worse or a little better.

    I think we may have a better team next year — and by the end of the season, better equipped for a WC game or short playoff series — but the Phillies, Mets, and Nationals all may be better too.

  29. @40 I’m optimistic, and I think that with the young players becoming one year older the Braves will see a general improvement across the board. Combined with whatever additions they choose to make, I think they improve on last year’s record.

    If the front office enters this offseason thinking that last season’s 90 wins is too high a bar, well then I don’t know what to say to that. The pieces are out there if only we’re willing to spend. Adding a Bryce Harper-caliber bat to this lineup would remove a lot of uncertainty from the offense.

  30. The Phillies and Nats are clearly trying to win. IMO the Mets are the biggest unknown quantity. They had a good second half and seem to want to try again to build around their starters. But if they falter to start the year, with a new GM, they’re going to sell, right?

    (It’s funny to remember how worked up people on here were over Todd Frazier not signing with us last offseason; would you rather be us or the Mets right now?)

  31. Piggybacking off of my own question, I’ll say lower and not make the playoffs. Somewhere around 85 wins.

  32. @43. Some people will jump at that and say we should ignore those four games due to small sample size.

    But to me the lack of power of this team is so damn obvious that it’s not funny. I don’t know how one can ignore that.

  33. @40, how can we predict anything if we don’t know the roster for 2019? If we add Harper and another legit bat, then we’ll be better. If we don’t, we’ll probably be worse.

  34. Nabobs of negativity. The hitting may regress slightly based upon the current roster (no changes). I think as many that might regress will match those that improve. Even Freddie did not have the season I think we all suspect he might be able to have. Acuna didn’t play a full season. Even if he regresses, the extra ABs will add to his counting numbers. Youth is a benefit not a risk. Any player that is younger than 25 is on an upswing including any sophomoric regression.

    What really strikes me is that the hitting exceeded my expectation (I predicted 25 WAR and we seem to have come in near 26 WAR) and the pitching under-performed what I expected (I predicted 16 WAR and we came in around 15 WAR). There is every reason to believe the pitching staff could find another level of performance especially in the bullpen where we were unsettled and even performed disastrously at times. We had so many rookies in the pen that you could count the entire bullpen years of experience on 2 hands.

    I think that we would win less than this year for missing Markakis, Sanchez, Suzuki, and Brach assuming they are not replaced with at least equivalents if not improvements. Our improvement next year will rest on how much better replacements of those four and the rest of Moylan, McCarthy, J. Ramirez, Wisler, Sims, Bautista, Bourjos, Flaherty, etc… are. You get better both by throwing out the “bad” and bringing in the “great”.

    I reserve judgement on next year’s win prediction until the roster is more settled.

  35. Any player that is younger than 25 is on an upswing including any sophomoric regression.

    Shot…

    What really strikes me is that the hitting exceeded my expectation (I predicted 25 WAR and we seem to have come in near 26 WAR) and the pitching under-performed what I expected (I predicted 16 WAR and we came in around 15 WAR).

    …and chaser

  36. The 2017-2018 Minnesota Twins are a recent and decent example of a team coming on quick, and then having a let down because of players not duplicating great seasons, some bad luck, injuries, etc.

    It’s really going to matter who we acquire, so you can’t just paint with a broad brush and try to speculate right now essentially saying it doesn’t matter. Assigning a win total at this point of the offseason is like trying to predict who’s going to be the President in 2032. And whatever you choose, it says a whole lot more about who you are than what is objectively true.

  37. Allard is interesting. You’d have to think he’s indeed trade bait and won’t last the offseason, and he could probably be a BOR as soon as next year for a rebuilding team and still has plenty of upside. A guy like Castellanos who will probably make about $22M over the next two years probably just doesn’t have a whole lot of surplus value where Allard’s 6 years of control and low floor is probably a pretty good match-up. Regardless of the way the offseason shakes out, getting Castellanos and his $8M salary and letting him get 400 PAs between LF, RF, and 3B might be something you do regardless of whether you sign a big FA.

  38. I hope we will trade away Allard this offseason. I don’t think he has enough to be a major league pitcher. After seeing all the young pitching pitched this season, I have him at the lowest on my list.

  39. We’ll be a better team next year (as will be the Phillies and probably Mets). Not sure if that will equate to a better record though. We did well against the NL East. Will be tough to improve.
    Get a RH masher, a TOR starter (Eovaldi?) and one or two bullpen guys some bench help and we’re good to go and win the division. Not so difficult, is it?

  40. As long as they’re not Gnattering.

    Don’t know if anybody’s posted this OAA chart re Castellanos. It’s pretty impressive.

  41. Allard would have been a good starter in the 90s. It’s increasingly hard for pitchers to survive without velocity.

  42. Have mercy, that’s some real bad range. He’s a really butcher out there. I wonder how he would do in RF at SunTrust vs. Comerica.

    But no, no, no, roadrunner, Wisler will always be my guy like Heyward is to Edward or any bad defender who hits home runs is to Chief.

  43. @8, Adam R.

    Understand means different things in Venutian and Martian. Venutian is the John (not Jon) Gray appellation for the language of women based on feelings. “Understand” is used more in the meaning of “empathize” in Venutian. Martian is the appellation for the language of men. “Understand” in Martian means “comprehend.”

    I Venutian understand some of the angst over Flowers as a catcher.

    In Martian, “y’all are crazy as hell.” Flowers is under a contract for a backup catcher. Very few ML teams have that good of a backup catcher. If he has to be primary catcher, he doesn’t kill you. Most ML teams would love to have that.

    I believe the Braves will try to get a front line catcher.
    There are very few of those in the first place and then very few of that group that are readily available.

  44. I sort of knew that Castellanos had a reputation as a poor fielder. Harper and McCutcheon are the big surprises there to me—several spots below Kemp and Schwarber!

  45. I’d still like to see Harper in a Braves uniform, but he did seem to miss out on a lot of very catchable balls. Hitting enough over the fence can make up for that, of course, but it needs to be a lot.

  46. Put me down as strongly preferring Castellanos to McCutcheon who I think is about done. He’s nowhere near the player he was. I’d rather have Markakis back than McCutcheon.

  47. He’s not the best fit for the Braves because of age/defense, but it’s worth noting that McCutchen hit like he did in his prime during his Yankee tenure.

    I see you, @71.

  48. OK, here’s how I plan to grade the offseason.

    We get Harper, Realmuto, and Corbin (or equivalent) and we get an A+

    We get less than Schwarber, Ramos, and Familia or Herrera or Soria (or equivalent) and we get an F (this combination would be a C-).

    If we end up with Duvall in COF, Suzuki, and no new pitchers or re-signing Anibal as the only pitching move, I would give the offseason an unequivocal flunk.

    I am open to other suggestions or ways to define the boundaries, but this seems pretty good to me right now.

  49. The Nats are already at work bolstering their pen. According to B. Nightengale, the Nats are signing Trevor Rosenthal.

  50. We don’t know what they’re paying, but it’s likely a good low risk / high reward move on their part to get Rosenthal and Barraclough. There is some real uncertainty there.

  51. @78 I’m not advocating for McCutchen. Getting him would be a slightly different version of the Markakis move made four years ago, but pretty much the same thing. McCutchen is a better player than Neck. But it wouldn’t be an ambitious move.

    We need a good player, preferably someone with power, to play LF. In all due respect to Rob, Nick Castellanos is not that player. Surely, AA can find someone better than a watered down version of Dave Kingman.

  52. Allard is probably a LOOGY long term if he can stick.

    Soroka, Gohara, and Riley for Realmuto. Who hangs up first?

  53. @86. I think nobody would hang up. But I would not part away Soroka. If it’s Allard instant of Soroka I am ok.

    @82. I agree with you. I don’t understand the fondness of Castellanos. I don’t love McCutchen but he doesn’t cost prospects to acquire. Neither of them are different maker.

  54. @90 Yeah, it reflects that I am not that high on Realmuto. But I do understand that the other options are not too attractive either. Nevertheless I don’t see this guy as the key different maker that we should give up our top prospects for.

  55. @92 Realmuto was the 26th best player in all of baseball last season – all fielding positions not including pitching. And he was the highest performing catcher – one of only two catchers in the top 50. How high should our standards be?

    Excellence at a position of rarity is more valuable than excellence at a position of commonality.

  56. Think about it another way. If we can go from near last in the league in throwing out baserunners to near first in the league, that change would be bigger for us than almost any other team considering how many walks we give up.

    Last year, a walk was a double.

  57. Realmuto isn’t great, but he’s still very good. If he’s like most catchers, he’s going to fall off a cliff in three years or so. He won’t be a long term cornerstone. But for the next three years, shit, we’d have a damned good receiver. That’s worth something.

    That being said, the Marlins are in our division. I’m not excited about some kind of Texiera trade from hell.

  58. @95 You probably put it better than I did. He is a good player last year, no doubt. But he is not a cornerstone player.

    Besides, the McCann experience put me in a cautious mode. His decline may come sooner than you think. That’s why I personally don’t like having catcher as one of your best players unless he is young and cheap and can play almost every game. Just my personal preference.

    I am actually thinking if we should bring back McCann to platoon with Flowers. I know most of you would hate it. But I would rather do that (or bring back Suz) and put more resources in other areas.

  59. Stretch.

    Willie McCovey died yesterday, age 80. New Yorkers had a real soft spot for him, the many battles at Shea, and they came out there in force to watch and applaud his last at bats.

    If you were there, not a whiff of idolatry. Just warm affection and a deep respect for a special career.

    Stretch.

  60. @95/97 I’m concerned this team will pay a king’s ransom to the Marlins for Realmuto. I hope it’s a smoke screen, and every time someone like Bowman drops Realmuto’s name like it’s the centerpiece acquisition to the Braves’ offseason, I wince. I trust Anthopoulos to be shrewd, though.

    I just don’t get all the fluster for a catcher on a team owned by a dude who wants to keep that catcher long term. Prying him away sounds like a really good way to get hosed in a deal…

  61. Estimates of Reakmuto’s excess value over the next 2 years range from 45M (career rates) to $80M (last year). Riley would be a fair trade if one assumes the former value. I have no idea how to assess the value of Gohara and Soroka because of their injuries, but all 3 feels like an overpay. I would do Riley and Wilson.

  62. @93, Yeah, but if most every other team but the Marlins is mediocre at catcher, is it that much of a competitive disadvantage? It’s all about asset allocation, and Catcher has always been a spurious place to invest in over other places on the roster, primarily because they don’t play every day and they generally don’t last long-term.

  63. I don’t think the Marlins actually wanted to extend Realmuto, other than to make him a more valuable trade commodity. Otherwise they would’ve gotten it done. It’s good PR for a franchise that needs it to have the appearance of making the effort. And they know they’ll be better off trading him, especially since there are so many contenders with a need at catcher (this is why it was smart to keep Flowers as an insurance policy). Realmuto will be a liability by the time they’re ready to contend again.

  64. Michael Reed is probably not much better, if at all, than the garden variety late-20’s outfielder with maybe one marketable skill that you can pretty much find every offseason or Spring Training, so I don’t think I’m too concerned with losing him. Should the Braves be unsuccessful in landing a Harper or Corbin where lots of money will be tied up in one player, a logical route based on available resources will be to strengthen the roster by spending more on the bench than we did last year. And if you do that, you just can’t keep a AAAA journeyman like Lane Adams or Michael Reed on the bench. Get a real player.

  65. MLB constructs schedule these days that’s heavy on games within the team’s division. So keep in mind that whatever gains in wins we would get with Realmuto, we’ll lose a bit at the hands of whomever AA would trade. It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Soroka/Riley/Gohara would cost us two or three games over the course of a season.

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