The Colorado Rockies needed their catchers to play better entering the 2019 season. Tony Wolters and Chris Iannetta formed a solid defensive duo in 2018, but even acknowledging that value, they needed to provide more punch on offense. The Rockies couldn’t afford for catcher to be a black hole in the lineup for another season.
Iannetta has missed early time with injuries. Drew Butera has filled in admirably, but unfortunately he has looked like Drew Butera when he bats. That has put a lot of pressure on Wolters.
So far he has been up to the task.
Wolters is slashing .292/.354/.389 so far. The Rockies should be thrilled with that, not just because that’s on the heels of his woeful .170/.292/.286 line in 2018. Those numbers are right in line with Wolters’s 2016 season, when he was a pleasant surprise on offense.
He’s never going to hit for much power. That explains his 87 OPS+ so far this season and his 81 OPS+ back in 2016 when he slashed .259/.327/.395. His value is in his defense, so if Wolters can settle in around those numbers on offense it will be great for him and the Rockies.
One weird early stat that is clearly an aberration that will be corrected: Wolters has zero triples in 2019. Don’t worry: Tony Three Bags will get his triples. You can quote me on that.
In the meantime we can enjoy the fact that he looks poised to provide more “Tony Freaking Wolters” moments in the clutch. The highlight below capped off one of the best Rockies at-bats of the season so far.
An RBI single up the middle by @TonyWolters to give the @Rockies the lead...Sound familiar? See if the #rockies can hold on for the win on @ATTSportsNetRM pic.twitter.com/nrp5ddcxSS— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM (@ATTSportsNetRM) May 2, 2019
Wolters has been up and down in his career in the fluid world that is measuring catcher defense. In the too-early-to-matter catcher framing stats at Baseball Prospectus, Wolters grades out poorly so far. And yet:
Almostef posted a video on Wolters last night lol pic.twitter.com/i179HewtAu— Goodro Catching (@goodrocatching) May 2, 2019
I’m not a scout, but I think Wolters looks like he has shown those soft hands that made him famous with baseball nerds during his debut season. I don’t think you needed to be a scout to see that he was stabbing at the ball more in 2017. He doesn’t look like that this year. Count me among the people who think Wolters is still an excellent receiver.
He presumably has carried over his rapport with the young pitching staff, although he probably wouldn’t jump at the chance to take credit for their results so far this season.
Wolters has shined when it comes to cutting down would-be base stealers, throwing out 36% so far. Put it all together, and I feel comfortable saying that Wolters continues to be an excellent defensive catcher.
That hair and mustache
Not a lot to add here, but it would be blogging malpractice for me to write about Wolters at the present moment and fail to mention that glorious hair and that gentleman’s mustache.
Nothing across.— Purple Row (@PurpleRow) May 5, 2019
Still 8-1 Dbacks.
Tony Wolters met one of our reptilian friends at spring training. pic.twitter.com/UTF3kY5mb1
I’ll acknowledge my bias (and jealousy) as a balding, graying man who could never grow facial hair. But I think he looks great.
Sorry. Anyway, Wolters is not among the league leaders in terms of playing time at catcher. But he is on pace to blow past his previous high marks in terms of games and innings caught. He has started 22 games and caught 195 innings. That should even out with Iannetta’s recent return, but it’s still worth noting with the overall quality of Wolters’s play.
I made the case that Wolters was the ideal back-up catcher when I looked at his 2018 season. He has needed to be more than that in 2019, and he has stepped up as a solid overall starting catcher in response.
The Rockies made a bold decision to stay the course with their current catching group this season. It was also arguably an unwise decision because there were external upgrades available, and Tom Murphy has played well in limited playing time since moving on to the Seattle Mariners.
They needed more from Iannetta and anybody else who catches, and so far Tony Wolters is doing his part to justify that decision.