Catching Unit Preview, Sans Realmuto

Catching Unit Preview, Sans Realmuto

As it sits, there’s no J.T. Realmuto coming. It doesn’t mean we don’t have the pieces to easily acquire him that we are probably actively looking to trade. But alas, he’s still a Marlin.

So with 25 days left until pitchers and catchers report, our catching unit is Brian McCann and Tyler Flowers. What can we expect, and how would that stack up against the rest of the league?

Brian McCann

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He’s back, but not better than ever. After starting his career with Atlanta, he hit .277/.350/473 in those 9 seasons. But he’s 35 now, and Heap’s coming off a horrible season with Houston: .212/.301/.339 in only 63 games. He also has graded out worse defensively as the years have gone along, as you might expect. And after stealing 23 bases in 31 chances in those 9 seasons with Atlanta, he has only attempted 3 stolen bases in the 5 seasons since. So he’s been hurt, he’s even slower, and he’s declined physically.

But I don’t think Atlanta is signing him thinking he’s hurt, and they’re also signing him for his leadership ability. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s going to be a little better, but not quite who he was the three seasons previous. So I think he’ll be about league average: .725 OPS, average defense, average speed for a catcher. Not exactly jaw-dropping.

Tyler Flowers

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We know a little bit more about Flowers as he’s been around for 3 years now. But after a .366 BABIP in 2016 and .342 BABIP in 2017, the BABIP gods struck him down below his career norms to .292 this past year. As a result, he went from being around a 115 wRC+ guy in the first two years to a slightly below league average 95 this past year. If he can get back to his career level of .321 on balls in play, he probably gets a bump and gets closer to being the 2 fWAR, solid regular he was. His ISO didn’t dip much, and his walk rate did increase last year, something that’s not uncommon for a catcher. But his walk rate may have increased because his bat has slowed down so significantly (he’s a 32-year old catcher, after all) that he’s decided to change the profile of his game. I guess we’ll see.

How Would They Rank?

Well, not well, but not as bad as you might think. If Fun Police got the bulk of the ABs, you’d be looking at about a .700 to .725 OPS catcher with about average defense. That isn’t Realmuto territory, but after ranking 6th in catching fWAR last year with Flowzuki, you’d probably only take about a 4 or 5 team dive into the 10-12 range. Remember, catching is terrible across the league. There were only 5 teams last year with above league average weighted runs created from their catching units. With Realmuto? Well, you know the answer to that. A McMuto tandem (Realcann?) would probably be a 6 fWAR duo, far and away beating the Pirates’ unit last year and be the best in baseball by a significant margin. Can you live without having an elite catching duo? Sure. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series last year, and their catchers performed to a -2.1 fWAR clip, by far the worst in baseball.

I’d rather have good catchers though.

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