It’s been said again and again here and elsewhere that the Rockies need to improve at catcher. By the end of last season, I was sure that Wilin Rosario had seen his last days as the Rockies' starting catcher. Not only did he show little improvement as a defender and receiver, but he also unimproved with the bat. More and more, the power potential Wilin showed in 2012 can be explained by a fluky 25.4 percent home run to fly ball ratio. That figure turned into a paltry 13.3 percent last year. What made it worse is that he also hit fewer fly balls total, as his ground ball rate inflated from 46.2 percent in 2012 to 50.2 percent in 2014, and his fly ball rate declined from 36.5 to 30.9 percent. His fly ball distance ranked 81st in baseball in 2014, between Kendrys Morales and Robinson Chirinos. This was a steep decline from 2012, when he ranked fifth in baseball sitting just below Adam Dunn and just above Pedro Alvarez. Earlier this season, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post speculated that Rosario’s focus on improving defense might have hurt his offense. That very well might be true. If it was the case, we land at the same point: the Rockies starting catcher is not fit to be a starting catcher, and while he fits on a major league baseball team, that team is not the Colorado Rockies.
Last week, Purple Row’s Carolyn Jelley succinctly broke down potential trade and free agent targets. I’m less optimistic than Carolyn regarding the availability of some of these catchers, but her article is a place to start.
Hayden Kane at Rox Pile wonders, what if Wilin Rosario isn't traded? Hayden suggests that focusing on Rosario’s one unquestionable strength can maximize the production of the roster spot he’ll occupy. Namely, Wilin still mashes left-handed pitching. Hayden speculates about Rosario serving as the platoon backup for both catcher and first base. "Can’t we imagine a scenario where Rosario starts at first base against some of those tough left-handed pitchers in the NL West, then exits in the sixth or seventh for Justin Morneau?" Hayden asks.
Welington Castillo is a catcher on the trade market. Not only that, but he’s a catcher who is just 28 and won’t be a free agent until 2018. Sahadev Sharma of Baseball Prospectus analyzes (subscription) what the addition of Miguel Montero and David Ross means for the Cubs. In short, it means that the Cubs are making a young catcher, Castillo, with long-term potential available by adding two more expensive veterans who can contribute immediately. Castillo requires development, and he’s not going to get it in the north side of Chicago in 2015. While I can accept that Castillo has potential, to me he looks like another Wilin Rosario. While he’s a good blocker, his framing skills haven’t progressed, and the 107 wRC+ he posted in 2013 looks like it might be a result of a .347 BABIP. Targeting Castillo might be a worthy gamble, but it would still be a gamble.
It’s come to this. Steve Clevenger, one of five catchers on the Orioles 40-man roster, is available reports Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors. Clevenger played in just 35 games in 2014, where he hit .225/.289/.337, for a wRC+ of 72. But he doesn’t totally lack potential. In a larger sample at Triple-A in 2014 (64 games and 254 plate appearances), Clevenger hit .305/.366/.389. He’s also about a league-average defender. The 28-year-old has no power, but he can draw a walk and put the ball in play. His 9.1 percent walk rate in Triple-A in 2014 resembled his 8.2 walk rate in the major leagues, although his 11.8 percent strikeout rate in Triple-A was quite a bit better than his 19.6 percent strikeout rate for the Orioles, though the final figure is not bad. At the very least, Clevenger would be a cheap option.