Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Expos Position Analysis - Catcher
Starter: Brian Schneider
Back-Up: Einar Diaz
In the Minors: Noone. No seriously. Nadie.
Bats: Left Age in 2005 : 28 Contract: 2004 1-yr $350,000
2004 Stats: .257 12 49 42 BB 63 K .399 Slug .325 OBP
What can be said about Brian Schneider that hasn't been said before when someone uttered "Eh."?
Past: Schneider was a moderately touted catching prospect who was remarkably consistent in his "average-ness" at the plate in the minors. When he was first called up with the Expos he platooned with Michael Barrett, and showed a little more pop than expected. Given that Barrett had an awful year was ready to become a free-agent, Montreal let him go and went with Schneider as the undisputed #1 catcher in 2004.
Present: Schneider bounced back from his own dismal year in 2003 to have another average affair. He improved both his stats against lefties and his plate discipline a bit, although it should be noted that Einar Diaz had most of the tough lefty at-bats this year. Most catchers begin to round into form in their 3rd-4th year behind the plate. This was Brian's third so I wouldn't expect too much more from him that what we saw this year.
Trying to be more positive, Brian is an very good defensive catcher. He threw out half the runners against him and is liked by the pitching staff. Supposedly he does a bunch of little stuff well.
Best Case: Brian finds his stroke and some plate discipline and becomes a solid .280 20+ HR guy. A better defensive Posada-lite
Worst Case: Brian never learns to hit lefties well or keep his bat on his shoulders and kind of flounders as a .250 no-power player only against righties.
Probable: Most catchers do develop a bit later than their counterparts. Brian should improve against lefties with more at-bats, but I wouldn't expect him to get better than acceptable at hitting them. Against righties he could because a solid, though not feared hitter. Probably around a .270 15+ HR guy.
Bats: Right Age in 2005 : 33 Contract: 2004 1-yr $2,587,500 with a 3.2 million option for 2005
2004 Stats: .223 1 11 11 BB 10 K .302 Slug .293 OBP
Has any team ever carried only one catcher?
Past: Diaz had a couple of good average, no-power, no-walk years, and the Indians foolishly decided to sign him to a nice back-loaded contract. Then they realized they had Victor Martinez coming and moved him to the Rangers for a year. Then the Rangers wanted to cut some salary and moved Einar to the Expos. The Ranger did pay 2 million of this years salary by the way.
Present: Diaz got most of the hard lefty starts and didn't do to well. He got the occasional start versus a righty and also fared pretty poorly. The 'Spos declined to pay him 3+ million for this next year.
Best Case: Einar's career fizzles out as a second-string catcher somewhere
Worst Case: Einar's done.
Probable: Einar will probably sign somewhere real cheap as insurance. If he's lucky he'll be a third-string/emergency catcher on a good team for a few years. The market for an aging singles hitting catcher is small.
Good catchers aren't usually available as free agents. The market is wary enough of this injury prone position to keep costs down and good catchers are usually a high priority to keep. In this years market I looked for players that were as young and/or likely to hit better than Schneider. I came up with Varitek, and maybe Damien Miller. Varitek is precisely the type of clubhouse presence you'd want in this team, and he's got a ring now, but he'll likely price himself too high for the 'Spos. Miller has proven himself consistently slightly better than what Schneider will probably put up.
Stick with Schneider. As a non free-agent he'll be cheap and he could very well have a break out year. Or at least "break out" into ok. The worst I see is another average year and an average lefty- hitting good-fielding catcher is something you should probably hold onto until he prices himself out or you luck into something better.
As a replacement for Diaz at back-up, the minors are empty. Doug Mirabelli, Todd Pratt, and John Flaherty are all righty hitters that'll probably show a little more pop than Schneider - which would be a nice change of pace. One of them should be cheap. Unfortunately there's exactly 1 catcher with more walks than K's (Jason Kendall) so Schneider won't get any guidance here. The Expos could also go after Ramon Castro, someone once pretty highly-touted, who's still young.