Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 41, Austin Wynns: -0.2 rWAR
If you had told me back in March that I would spend much of the 2023 season thinking about backup catchers, I wouldn’t have believed you. Who — besides backup catchers and cost-cutting general managers — spends time pondering a bench player? But then I read Tim Brown’s The Tao of the Backup Catcher: Playing Baseball for the Love of the Game, and I talked to Austin Wynns and Bud Black about the position, and I found my focus had changed. (Read my book review here.)
I came to see the backup catcher as an essential (if unappreciated) part of any baseball team. And it wasn’t just Wynns. Whenever I watched a game with the backup catcher starting, I had new respect for that player. The opening notes of “Dancing Queen,” Wynns’ walk-up music, would float through my mind as a tribute to backup catchers everywhere.
But this is not a philosophical treatise on the role of the backup catcher; rather, this is an assessment of Austin Wynns’ contributions to the 2023 Rockies. On one measurable level, he was fine; on his behind-the-scenes work, we’ll never know.
How was Austin Wynns’ offense?
As I learned in Brown’s book, if a backup catcher can hit above replacement level, he’s not a backup catcher for long. In this respect, Austin Wynns was consistent with his fellow backup catchers.
He slashed .208/.268/.277 in 145 plate appearances across 51 games. Wynns had one home run, 10 RBI, and one stolen base.
His OPS+ with the Rockies was an unremarkable 45, and a quick search of MLB Film Room mostly features clips of Wynn catching when a Rockies pitcher has a particularly interesting out.
How was his defense?
It was fine. He had four DRS and a CS% of 33%. Here he is throwing out Corbin Carroll, which is no small thing:
In short, Wynns and Díaz balanced each other nicely.
Is there anything else to consider?
There is, but it’s not measurable.
It’s his behind-the-scenes work that really mattered — the time Wynns spent working with pitchers and helping them prepare, even though he would not take an at-bat in the game. But we’ll never know what that was worth to the Rockies.
Being a backup catcher is a selfless job. In this, according to Bud Black, Wynns was well above replacement level.
On Friday, October 13, the Rockies announced that Wynns had been outrighted off the Major League roster.
The Rockies announced today that RHP Matt Carasiti, INF/OF Harold Castro and C Austin Wynns have all been outrighted off the Major League roster.— Rockies Club Information (@RockiesClubInfo) October 13, 2023
The Rockies currently have 37 players on the 40-man roster, with five players on the 60-day IL (Gilbreath, Gomber, Márquez, Rolison,…
Perhaps will see Wynns back with the Rockies in 2024. (MLB Trade Rumors predicts he will earn $1 million.) Elias Díaz has one year remaining on his contract, and Drew Romo probably will not be ready at the start of the season. Bringing Wynns back to start the season makes sense.
Plus, one can never have too much Abba.