This offseason the Rockies acquired veteran catcher Nick Hundley to take over behind the plate in place of Wilin Rosario. We all know how poorly Rosario struggled with his defense, so this was seen as an upgrade to most Rockies fans. What’s somewhat surprising is it has been Hundley’s offense that has shined so far, and not necessarily his defense. It’s only May, so stats at this point don’t mean a whole lot, but it’s still interesting to see how players perform during their first few months with a new team.
Hundley has never been much of an offensive threat, hitting just .238 over seven seasons with the San Diego Padres and .233 over 50 games with the Baltimore Orioles. In 18 games with the Rockies, Hundley has a slash line of .328/.384/.463 over 67 at bats with a line drive percentage of 28, which is indicative that he's seeing the ball well. What’s even more surprising is that he’s hitting just as well on the road as he is at Coors Field. In 11 road games he’s hitting .325, while in seven home games he's hitting .333. Once again, this is a small sample size. Hundley's BABIP currently sits at .404, which suggests his average will likely drop over the course of the season. Regardless, it's encouraging to see Hundley's offense off to a hot start, especially on the road where the Rockies struggle.
The Rockies primary reason for the signing of Hundley was for his ability to call a game and be a veteran presence for young pitchers like Tyler Matzek, Eddie Butler, and Jordan Lyles. Although those three pitchers are only averaging 5.4 innings per start, they have an average ERA of 3.59, which is encouraging.
Giving Hundley’s defense the eye test, he has looked like a big improvement over Rosario. He consistently heads out to the mound whenever his pitchers are struggling, and he’s done a good job helping his pitchers get out of jams. Looking at fWAR, Nick Hundley already has 0.5 WAR in 2015, which is 0.1 more than Rosario had over 106 games in 2014. In terms of pitch framing, Hundley is performing below his career norms, which suggests he might be in line for some positive regression. For more on this topic, I recommend reading Ryan Schoppe’s excellent article on pitch framing.
Hundley's veteran presence might also prove valuable with the development of young pitching prospects in Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland. From now until Hundley's contract expires at the end of 2016, both young pitchers are likely to benefit from working with Hundley. That's just another reason why the signing looks like a good one.