Perhaps you like A.J Pierzynski. You may have ready made excuses for his .253/.285/.348, his 2014 bWAR of -0.2, his poor ball blocking skills, and penchant for the GIDP (11 this season, 207 in his career). If none of that bothers you, his age (37) and
one year contract may concern you.
Maybe you are a David Ross fan. There are reasons to like him, but there is also the fact that he is a 37 year old catcher batting .172/.226/.374. Both are in the final year of their contract.
All of these facts – old catchers, poor hitting, expiring contracts – plus the hideous record of the team (39-50) lead to speculation of the future, perhaps even calls for the future. And what a future it is. Christian Vazquez draws Yadier Molina comps. His defense is elite, his arm is a work of art, and his bat is increasingly adequate.
As exciting as that profile is, that is not even the most exciting catcher in the Red Sox system. That would be Blake Swihart. Of course, he needs no introduction to Red Sox Nation, but the Portland Sea Dog catcher was just named the 14th best prospect (not
catching prospect…prospect period) in all of baseball by Baseball America, while Baseball Prospectus tabbed him as the 22nd best prospect in the Minors. His improved defense and exciting offensive numbers in AA (.294/.347/.474 with 9 home runs through297 plate appearances) lead to the increased reputation in the prospect evaluation community.
So, with exciting prospects at AAA and AA and less than exciting incumbents in the Major Leagues – partnered with a lost season in Boston – isn’t it time to give the kids a look/promotion? That time is surely coming soon, either because AJP is traded to a contender needing catching depth (Baltimore?) or because he is straight DFAed (we can hope, right?).
All of this curiosity got me thinking if there was ever a team that had such catching depth near the major leagues with such promising profiles. Memory did not need to be long, as the Texas Rangers had a catching trio from 2008-2010 in the Major Leagues and high minors: Taylor Teagarden (who peaked as the 73rd prospect in Baseball America), Jarrod Saltalamaccia (peaked as Baseball America’s 18th prospect), and Max Ramirez (who peaked as the 83rd prospect in Baseball America) [the latter two who were both future Red Sox properties]. That is three catchers in the same system – all in Baseball America’s top 100 – all reaching the Major Leagues at roughly the same time.
They all provided a combined 2.3 bWAR for the Rangers in a total of 356 appearances between for their careers there.
Of course, Saltalamaccia reached his promise with some good years in Boston, including being the starting catcher for the 2013 World Series champions.But as the prospect for the Rangers (and even the Braves before he was traded for Teixeira), he could only be considered underwhelming. Ramirez and Teagarden never became even adequate major leaguers.
This is not a doomsday remembrance, but it is a cautionary tale. As teeth grating difficult as it is to watch Pierzynski play, there are no promises that Vazquez and/or Swihart will calm our agony. There are a long list of prospects that came through on their promise. There is an equally long list of players who hit on their promise.
But often before they hit their promise, there are often growing pains. Ask Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr.
When cussing A.J. Pierzynski, remember the Rangers – and that he played for them because their catching rich farm system did not pan out – be careful what you ask for.