The 2020 season, whenever it does start, is going to look vastly different than anything we’ve seen before. Will teams be forced to play multiple double headers per week, in order to maximize the games played? Will there be off days? Will rosters be pushed to 30? Maybe even a few more? Whatever we get will have an impact on our decisions.
One of the positions that already gets frequent rest is catcher, though whatever season we get could take that to an even greater degree. With that in mind, which backup catchers could be impacted most? Let’s take a look at the AL Central:
Cleveland Indians – Sandy Leon
Leon is a career .221 hitter over 1,298 PA in the Majors and he’s never hit more than 7 HR in a year at the highest level (25 career HR). Is there anything about that which sounds appealing?
Kansas City Royals – Cam Gallagher
With Salvador Perez having missed all of 2019 the Royals’ backup catcher spot should’ve been an intriguing spot. However the Royals don’t have a truly trustworthy option on the roster. Gallagher is a career .247 hitter in the minors with 30 HR over a 2,095 PA career. It’s not like Meibrys Viloria offers much more intrigue either, so this isn’t a spot to target.
Detroit Tigers – Jake Rogers
Before the addition of Austin Romine it appeared that Rogers would at least share the role with Greiner… Then it looked like Rogers would get bumped to Triple-A… Now everything points towards the need for three catchers on the active roster, and Rogers would be the beneficiary.
There’s no questioning his power, with 18 HR over 364 PA between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors, the issue is whether or not he’ll make enough contact. Of course he’s better than the .125 hitter he was in the Majors last season, and even though strikeouts are going to be part of his game his approach wasn’t abysmal (12.7% SwStr%, 28.0% O-Swing%). The potential is there for a .250ish hitter with power, and at that type of production there is going to be value.
Minnesota Twins – Alex Avila
The Twins were always going to utilize Avila, as well as Willians Astudillo, behind Mitch Garver. Of course Avila is a career .235 hitter whose coming off back-to-back years of even worse than that (.165 and .207). Sure there’s power, but even if there’s more of a need for the reserve to get AB is Avila really a high-level option at this point? There’s a good chance Astudillo overtakes him as it is.
Chicago White Sox – James McCann
McCann lost his job by default, solely due to the addition of Yasmani Grandal. Maybe he couldn’t replicate last year’s production, but he’s still coming off a year where he hit .273 with 18 HR and 60 RBI over 476 PA. Maybe you want to point towards his 18.6% HR/FB, but he posted marks of 12.6% (2016) and 14.3% (2017) so it’s not unreasonable. That leaves the average…
His approach isn’t overly impressive, including a 13.5% SwStr% and 35.3% O-Swing% last season. He benefited from a .359 BABIP, and even though he hit the ball hard (39.9% Hard%) and used the entire field (30.4% Oppo%) it isn’t a maintainable mark. His average plummeted to .226 in the second half, so it’s obvious why the team made the move to replace him.
McCann could offer some short-term appeal, but he’s more of a .220 hitter with some pop than a can’t miss option.
Ranking the best options in the AL Central:
- Jake Rogers – Detroit Tigers
- James McCann – Chicago White Sox
- Alex Avila – Minnesota Twins
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: