Dustin Garneau often goes unnoticed.
He’s a nondescript guy who has spent the majority of his seven-year career in the minor leagues. He made his debut in 2015 at age 27. He’s a grinder. His name is “Dustin.” He never occupied any top prospect lists, but he’s competent.
You might be inclined to think that being competent means that Garneau is boring or that he’s just another guy. Then you take a step back and you realize that being competent, in this case, means that he can play catcher in the freaking big leagues.
There are a few bad catchers and even fewer elite catchers. In between, you find a mass of players who handle a position that is demanding intellectually and physically. In the rhythm of the game, we don’t always notice the majority of catchers. We take for granted all of the things that competent catchers can handle.
You don’t notice them, that is, until you do.
Dustin Garneau is fine. He’s not a disaster, and the Rockies know better than most organizations how important it is to have your catchers clear that admittedly low bar. He doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of upside either, which likely explains why it took so long for him to make his debut.
Drafted by the Rockies in 2009, Garneau followed up the 22 games he played in 2015 with 24 games at the big league level in 2016. The bulk of his playing time came in May when the Rockies needed a replacement for the injured Nick Hundley.
Garneau’s offensive input certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence: he put up a .235/.293/.368 slash line in that small 2016 sample size, and that was actually an improvement over the .157/.224/.286 line he put up in his small 2015 sample. Even if those big league samples are small, Garneau is 29 years old and those stats probably aren’t far off of who he is as a big league player.
But that brings us back to the point: Dustin Garneau is not an every day player. He’s not supposed to be. He is supposed to be an option if the Rockies need somebody in a pinch who can handle the defensive duties at catcher, and he has shown he can fulfill that role. That’s important, even if it’s not exciting or always appreciated.
Tom Murphy and Tony Wolters seem poised to form an exciting combination behind the plate next season. If the Rockies have their way, Garneau will not be part of the plan beyond the same occasional spot duty he has been covering the last couple seasons.