When evaluating catchers, it’s important to keep one thing in mind. In general, catchers can’t hit. Aside from the Braves’ Brian McCann and a few others, MLB catchers are a derisory group at the plate. It’s not like this a breakthrough revelation or anything, but fans often tend to forget that their team’s soft hitting catcher is probably on par with the rest of the league. It’s a very difficult position to upgrade offensively. That’s why catching prospects that show promise at the plate become so highly regarded, e.g. Wilin Rosario. Obviously, any discussion about the Rockies’ catchers is going to center on Chris Iannetta and that’s why I’m giving them an A. The catcher position is one of a few places where the Rockies are outperforming most of baseball.
Chris Iannetta – A
Think back to the Rockies’ biggest question marks leading into the season. It was assumed that if Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler, Ian Stewart, and Todd Helton could answer the bell in 2011, the Rox would run away with the West. Clearly, the Fowler and Stewart portions of that equation have not worked out, but Helton and Iannetta have exceeded expectations. Everyone recognizes that with Helton, but many still think Iannetta is having a bad year. It’s an unfortunate misconception based on one misleading stat — batting average.
If, before the season, I told you that Iannetta would be one of baseball’s ten best catchers over the first half, you’d be ecstatic. Currently, he ranks sixth. At least according to Fangraphs WAR. For those that prefer Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, Iannetta ranks as the Rockies third best position player, right behind Helton and Tulo.
Defensively, Iannetta is solid, but he’s not dominant. Certainly, his fielding plays a part in his excellent WAR rankings, but most would be surprised to know that Iannetta is giving the Rockies as much value at the plate as he is in the field. Toss out the .214 batting average and what’s left is the stat line of a very solid major league catcher. He hits for some power and gets on base all the time. Out of catchers with over 250 plate appearances, Iannetta has the third best OBP, trailing only McCann and Alex Avila of the Tigers.
Not to say that Iannetta is a flawless player. Some of his walks are attributable to him being pitched around in the eighth spot, but even with the bad, I’ll still take him over most of the league’s other catchers.
I’m developing a real special place in my heart for Iannetta. He’s like a cute, unassuming girl flying under everyone’s radar. Well, I’m noticing you, Chris, and let me tell you something. You’re looking mighty fine.
Matt Pagnozzi & Jose Morales — B
They’re backup catchers. In 100 combined plate appearances, they have a combined 0.2 WAR. That’s more than acceptable.