As one of the most important positions on the field, the Texas Rangers may have the best 1-2 catching duo in baseball. The Rangers will get a full season from superstar catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Will he help lead the Rangers to another top-ten offense?
Lucroy helped propel the team to it’s 2nd-best in franchise history and will be a key piece in the 2017 season. With backup catchers having a bigger and bigger role in today’s game it’s important to look at the organizations depth at the position.
Lucroy was statistically the best catcher in baseball last year. His 4.5 WAR was best among qualified catchers and half-a-win better than 2nd-place Buster Posey. Over the years, Lucroy has garnished the reputation of being one of the games best offensive catchers. His 2016 season showed that he isn’t just one of the best, he is the best.
He set career high’s in home runs, slugging, and ISO power rating. His 24 home runs were 3rd among catchers with at least 400 plate-appearances. The 81 RBI’s he produced were good for most among catchers.
Always known for being more of a contact hitter, Lucroy’s power surge in 2016 was a delightful surprise. Another productive year out of Lucroy could be a catalyst for yet another top-10 offense.
With all the hype surrounding Lucroy as a hitter, it’s easy to forget how good he is defensively. He’s arguably a top-three defensive catcher in the game today. When you combine that with his hitting ability he adds tremendous value.
Lucroy threw out more runners than any catcher in baseball last year. The 44 runners he threw out were 14-more than his previous career high set back in 2011. His .389 CS% was the 2nd-best in baseball and also set another career high.
His success controlling the running game was a pleasant and welcoming surprise. It marked the first time since his 75 game rookie season that he threw out over 30% of potential base steals. This was also a vast improvement over his .278% and .259% from 2015 and 2014 respectively.
Barring injury, this will be the first time since 2014 that Robinson Chirinos is not the starting catcher on opening day. Since becoming a Ranger in 2013, Chirinos has been one of the most underrated pieces in several postseason runs.
Struggling through injuries throughout the past couple of years, Chirinos provides solid defense and some pop when healthy. While he’s more than capable to be a starting catcher, Chirinos may be better used as a backup.
Apr 9, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos (61) makes a throw to first base during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
His .224 AVG is misleading as most of his offense was generated via power. His 108 wRC+ was the best of his career as was his gaudily .259 ISO rating. Hitting nine home runs in his limited 170 at-bats, Chirinos was on pace to set a career high in home runs as well had he stayed healthy. His 25.9 K% was also the highest of his career, but the Rangers will trade an increase in strikeouts for power.
To go along with his power, Chirinos is also a solid defensive backstop. His 2.1 defensive rating according to Fangraphs was better than some full-time catchers. Chirinos could be one of the better backup catchers this upcoming season. A solid defensive backstop with some power could be a valuable asset.
Long time Minor League player, 28-year-old Brett Nicholas finally got his shot in the big leagues last season. Putting up a .906 OPS in 45 plate-appearances, Nicholas proved he could hit at the Major League level.
Always showing some power from the left-handed side of the box in the Minor Leagues, Nicholas showcased some of that power in the big leagues. His .275 ISO rating mixed with a .550 slugging % was encouraging.
Nicholas may be the first man up in case of an injury. Given his pop from the left-handed side along with his decent defensive ability he could be a serviceable back-up.
24-year-old catching prospect Jose Trevino received an invitation to Spring Training this year. Only reaching High-A last season it’s a long shot to see Trevino make the big league club this season. However, in the event of an injury-crises and a strong showing in the minor’s we could see Trevino pop up in 2017.
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Only becoming a full-time catcher in 2015, Trevino shows the defensive skills to be an everyday catcher in the Major Leagues. As a former shortstop Trevino has the arm-strength to throw out runners at a high clip. He’s also quick enough to become an above average blocker.
Trevino’s power is his most redeemable quality as a hitter. His 39 extra base hits in 2016 netted a respectable .434 slugging %. His low 10.5 k% is impressive for such a young hitter and bodes well for the future. While it’s a long shot we see him this year, he could be the future backstop for the Rangers.