AL East Positional Preview – Catcher
After spending a few months on the West coast, I have returned to my beloved East, where the sun rises and then is dragged across the sky by a chariot to the heathens. We will be taking a deep look at the American league East, where the Baltimore Orioles begin the season anew, in search of their first divisional title. Baltimore is one of 12 teams in the league that have never won their division, but if you speak with new GM Andy, you may start to believe that is going to change. Without any further delay, lets take a look at the backstops here in the AL East:
Cameron Gallagher – New York Yankees – Cam was acquired in 2014 via trade with the Atlanta Braves (which was actually the 5th time Gallagher had been dealt in 2 years). Almost immediately after the trade, the main piece heading back to the Braves, Juan Davilla, blew out his elbow and missed a significant amount of time (though that fact seems to have been erased from his player history…..). Cam has loads of talent with the bat, and is even more impressive as a signal caller. Though he is yet to see a complete seasons workload, he is slated to be the Yanks only backstop all year long, so we could see him finally reach that 25 HR mark. GM Brad Willig is counting on CG staying healthy all year long in order to regain the crown of the AL East.
Yadier Molina – Toronto Blue Jays – Yadi has been the cream of the crop for years. There is no better defensive catcher in the league (dare I say world?). Molina has been a staple of the Jays roster since 2012, and has established himself as not only a leader in the clubhouse, but a fan favorite in Toronto. If I would have been writing this article last year, I think he would have been #1 on the list, but at 34 (turning 35 next year), I think we may finally start to see this iron mans knees break down a bit, and that is the only reason he slips. Molina will be asked to take on more offensive responsibility this season, as a few heavy hitters have left the great white north for warmer pastures. It will be an interesting story line to watch, as Yadi try’s to stretch his abilities as his body ages.
Mark Thomas – Tampa Bay Rays – Mark Thomas is from my hometown, Atlanta, GA. In fact, he actually went to my High school – Blessed Trinity in Roswell, GA. There was great temptation to allow my connection to Mark blur my vision and rank him higher up this list, but he is simply a tier down from our top 2 contenders. Mark has been inconsistent in his 3 years as a catcher for the Rays, but had a very nice 2016. While it will be important for him to maintain his production with the stick (if not improve), his main focus will be on ctaching and mentoring this talented pitching staff. The Rays honestly could challenge the Mariners for best staff in the American league, and they are indeed YOUNG. It will be important for Thomas, who has been described as “somewhat of a leader” to step up and become a full fledged leader of this team in the Jason Varitek, Jorge Posada vein.
Sandy Leon/Austin Hedges – Baltimore Orioles – Baltimore has confirmed that they intend to enter the 2017 season with a timeshare of defensive catchers. Leon and Hedges profile as similar players, with Leon hitting righties well, and Hedges fairing better against lefties. The O’s are yet to achieve a winning record over a full year, but there is some confidence growing in Camden. With former GM Ryan Naylor now running the show down in Miami, the O’s have been taken in a different direction in building their team. Leon and Hedges will be a part of that, even if neither one of them breaks the Mendoza Line.
Michael Quesada – Boston Red Sox – Quesada was a free agent signing on Christmas day 2016 (miracle?). Boston has needed a catcher for years, as the last two they trialed did not work out the way Brett Jackson wanted them to. But then, not much has in Bean Town. The Sox have been on a steady and consistent decline since winning 93 games in 2013. They have actually won 10 LESS games each year since, culminating in a 64 win season in 2016. I personally think Esperaza (acquired in 2014 from the Angels) is a better option behind the plate, but it looks like Quesada will be given the first chance. Either way, Boston’s catching options belong at the bottom of this list.
So that is how I see the catchers stacked up in the AL East. Lets add Gallagher to our living ALL AL East Team:
C – Cameron Gallagher, NYY
We will move onto the infield next week, and see who stacks up as the best in the AL East.