Reese Kaplan -- Who's the Best Hitting Catcher in Baseball? (Hint: It's Not Who You Think)


The New York Mets have some definite holes to fill on their roster and to hear many folks tell it, catcher is the primary vacancy.  Personally, I disagree and feel upgrading the bullpen is priority number one, but let’s take a look at an alternative not being discussed as much as the Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal and J.T. Realmuto solutions. 

No one seems interested in Matt Weiters nor Jonathan Lucroy after they both seem to have forgotten how to hit.  What if instead I could find for you a catcher who, over his last 623 ABs delivered 31 HRs, 100 RBIs, struck out just 82 times and hit .276?  Furthermore, what if I told you his contract paid him a modest sum of $3.5 million to do so?  Would that pique your interest?

Kurt Suzuki is a guy who’s spent much of his career as a platoon player or backup, but in his last two seasons in Atlanta, those very gaudy numbers are indeed what he provided.  He’s going to be 35 in 2019 and as such wouldn’t require a long commitment or an expensive one.  He might even be worth including with Kevin Plawecki or even Travis d’Arnaud in a catching timeshare. 

Now Suzuki is not going to wow you with his defensive game.  Going into the 2017 campaign he ranked 20th of 24 catchers in defensive fWAR.   He picked it up quite a bit during that season but regressed in 2018.  For the Martin Maldonado fans who value defense in a catcher above all else, he’s not your guy. 

Interestingly, despite his mediocre reputation for defense, at the time he was signed for 2017 Fangraphs had him ranked 6th in baseball among catchers, above Salvador Perez and below Matt Weiters.  That’s pretty heady company for a guy not known for his glove nor arm. 

However, in the latter stages of his career he has changed his offensive approach dramatically with a big jump in hard hit percentage, pull percentage and fly ball rate.  That resulted in a huge upswing in power and RBI production never before seen by the former role player. 
It’s his change in offensive approach that has him as a somewhat under-the-radar choice for whatever team wants to extend him an offer.  His 132 wRC+ for Atlanta has him ranked ahead of such star players at that position as J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, Buster Posey, Wilson Ramos, Salvador Perez and Gary Sanchez.  That’s not too shabby for someone who earned less than Juan Lagares. 

Even if he’s not the primary catcher, I would think as a backup he’s a far cry better than what fans have seen from the likes of Kevin Plawecki, Tomas Nido and others.  I’m not ready to abandon the long-term solutions provided by the triumvirate at the top of this piece, but it certainly seems that Suzuki is worth a flyer for whatever role he might play.  I would think a 2-year deal (or one with an option year) paying say $5 million per season would keep the limited shekels available to fortify the pen. 


Tom Brennan said...

Sounds like a reasonable plan, Reese.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind that at all.
I would've been fine with Mathis.
The way I look at it pitching is the top priority on the team.
Finding a catcher who the pitchers like to throw too,and can throw runners out to help the pitchers.
The Mets team needs to add defense up the middle.
Rosario and McNeil at short and 2nd are fine.
But CF and behind the plate need to be better
Cincinnati is looking at adding pitchers?

The Reds also have a catcher I think who is undervalued in Tucker Barnhart,and they are looking at Trading Billy Hamilton.
Hamilton to me would be a great platoon partner with Lagares. Plus adding some speed off the bench late in games. Also Barnhart is a switch hitter and a good defensive player.
I would offer Wheeler for those two players.

Move Lugo into the rotation and trade Bruce for a bullpen piece


Hobie said...

That description (Suzuki) is what I always thought TdA would be. Started out that way last year... alas.

Reese Kaplan said...

Wouldn't it be simpler to trade Lugo?

bill metsiac said...

For what?

bill metsiac said...

I like having Suzuki's offense, but with a team built around pitching it's essential to have defense at catcher. If the pitchers press because they don't have confidence in their battery mates, it's counter-productive.

If we're looking for a 2-year guy so we can see what we have in our system, Ramos is clearly the answer. And his comments last month about his desire to catch the Mets staff only adds to his desirability.

Remember Casey's words about catchers.

Mack Ade said...

I stick to my guns...

Defense first behind the plate

Reese Kaplan said...

Was in response to Steve's hypothetical trade of Wheeler and then moving Lugo into his spot in the rotation.

Mike Freire said...

I still like Ramos and think it is the best avenue to take this off season.

But the Suzuki idea is interesting.

Reese Kaplan said...

Ramos has a very bad injury history. Suzuki is older but has been healthy and would cost less in terms of length and dollars.

Reese Kaplan said...

It looks like my prognostication crystal ball is in rare form already. I had predicted two years at $5 million per year for Suzuki. The Nats just signed him for two years, $10 million total (split $4 and $6).

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