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 East & NL East:
Reese McGuire – Toronto Blue Jays
We are high on Danny Jansen entering 2020 and he should continue to be viewed as the starter, but in a condensed season with many games crammed in the opportunity for McGuire is going to grow. He was already going to play a role, but he’s consistently disappointed in the minors and it’s hard to envision him suddenly living up to the hype.
Over the past two seasons at Triple-A McGuire’s hit .239 with 12 HR over 646 PA. While he did show an ability to make consistent contact (8.9% SwStr%), is that really enough? He had just 36 extra base hits (12 HR), so there isn’t much to see here.
McGuire could be a short-term play and usable if you are desperate, but Jansen remains the favorite to see the bulk of the playing time (and with more experience should really thrive).
Chance Sisco – Baltimore Orioles
You could argue this would’ve been a platoon, between Sisco and Pedro Severino, regardless of how the season played out. Sisco has been a failure thus far over parts of three seasons in the Majors, hitting .203 with 12 HR over 404 PA. Strikeouts have been the biggest issue, but he showed a solid approach last season (11.8% SwStr%, 24.4% O-Swing%) while hitting the ball hard (41.5% Hard%).
His 11.1% walk rate shows he has a clue at the plate and his .276 BABIP should rise. Considering he’s hit .105 against southpaws, compared to .257 for Severino, they could form a solid platoon. It’s hard to get behind Sisco, but let’s not forget even last season he hit .292 with 10 HR over 196 PA at Triple-A.
With opportunity the upside is there. In two-catcher formats he’s worth rolling the dice and stashing.
Jonathan Lucroy – Boston Red Sox
He’s a non-roster invitee, but it’s easy to argue that he’s better than Kevin Plawicki and with expanded rosters he should make the team. Christian Vazquez is locked in as the starter, however, after hitting .276 with 23 HR over 521 PA a year ago, so even in a condensed season the playing time could be questionable.
Then you could argue that Lucroy is more mystique as opposed to skill. Ever since he launched 24 HR in 2016 he was on radars, but look at the three subsequent seasons:
- 2017 – .265 with 6 HR
- 2018 – .241 with 4 HR
- 2019 – .232 with 8 HR
In other words he’s a hard pass.
Tyler Flowers – Atlanta Braves
Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud were going to share the role, regardless of how the season was constructed. Given d’Arnaud’s injury history the outlook was that much better, though Flowers propensity to swing and miss (33.9% strikeout rate in ’19) is going to work against him. It’s clear that the Braves don’t trust him as a starter, as he hasn’t played in more than 99 games in a season since arriving in Atlanta (four years) and the team acquired d’Arnaud for a reason.
Francisco Cervelli – Miami Marlins
Jorge Alfaro is going to start and is coming off a strong season as he hit .262 with 18 HR over 431 AB. Of course there also is a long list of questions facing him:
- Groundball Rate – 52.7%
- BABIP – .364
- Approach – 22.0% SwStr%, 50.4% O-Swing%
It makes sense for the team to have a capable backup, and if healthy you could argue that Cervelli is a better fit (especially as a veteran trying to help a young pitching staff mature). Don’t be surprised to see this turn into at least a 50/50 split.
Kurt Suzuki – Washington Nationals
Suzuki and Yan Gomes are going to share the catching role, just as they did a year ago as the team marched to a World Series title:
- Kurt Suzuki – .264 (74-280), 17 HR, 63 RBI
- Yan Gomes – .223 (70-314), 12 HR, 43 RBI
Clearly Suzuki was the better performer, and he’s been able to maintain it for three straight seasons. We had him ranked as our 14th best catcher entering the season, so whether he’s the “starter” or “backup” he’s going to be the more valuable option.
Those to be ignored:
- Tomas Nido – New York Mets
- Kyle Higashioka – New York Yankees
- Andrew Knapp – Philadelphia Phillies
- Michael Perez – Tampa Bay Rays
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference
Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings: