Pre-Season Sox Stock: Catchers

Tyler FlowersEver since the free agency departure of A.J. Pierzynski after the 2012 season, the White Sox have not had much production from the catcher position. Pierzynski was not only a Chicago baseball icon, but he was also a heck of a ballplayer during his eight-year career with the Sox. Given Pierzynski’s longevity of success on the south side, the White Sox organization may have taken it for granted to have a catcher who can be more than just a backstop. Pierzynski was a lock to post a respectful batting average just about every year, and his influence on the pitching staff and the rest of his teammates was irreplaceable.

Along came Tyler Flowers as the starting catcher in 2013 and Pierzynski was immediately missed. In two seasons thus far as the the Sox primary backstop, Flowers has hit .223. The backup catchers over the last two seasons have been players like Hector Gimenez, Josh Phegley, and Adrian Nieto. Neither one of them was good enough in their roles to prevent the Sox from signing three free agent veterans this winter as potential backups for Flowers in 2015.

Major League Stock: Down and Constant

It has been a rough Major League career for Flowers. Plain and simple. He is a career .218 hitter with a BB:K ratio of 1:5. At 29-years-old, he is supposed to be in the prime of his career right now. If a .241 average with 15 HR and 50 RBI (last year’s numbers during his age 28 season) is the best we can expect from him in his prime years, then maybe it’s time to start searching for another starting catcher. Sure, there are worse starting catchers in the league, but there are also a lot of better ones. 2015 could be Flowers’ last chance to produce on the south side. Third time is a charm, right?

As mentioned above, the Sox brought in three veteran free agent catchers to compete for a backup role – Rob Brantly, George Kottaras, and Geovanny Soto. Rumor has it that Soto has the best chance to join Flowers on the big league roster. As for myself, I will be rooting for a good spring from Rob Brantly. Soto is already 32-years-old, and hasn’t had a good season in quite some time. Brantly is much younger and is also a lefty. At this point, it’s looking like Adrian Nieto will need to develop his game in the minor leagues during the 2015 season.

Minor League Stock: Down and Constant

The fact that the Sox signed three veteran catchers to compete for a big league roster spot easily describes the state of catchers in the team’s farm system. Either they aren’t good or they’re too young. As an avid Sox fan who follows the team religiously, I haven’t heard a single word about a catching prospect over the past few years. In fact, not once have I even seen a catcher on any list of the team’s top prospects. Not in the top 10, not in the top 20. Nowehere. The closest thing to a prospect appears to be Kevan Smith, who is currently a member of the team’s 40-man roster. Smith is already 26 years old, and he is yet to make it past Double-A ball; but he has still posted solid numbers in the minor leagues. He is a career .296 hitter in the minors, and has been the primary starting catcher on every team he has been on during his four-year career in the Sox farm system.