Each year at the All-Star Break, I look back and assign letter grades to our beloved Royals. My grading system is sometimes based on results, sometimes based on a curve and always arbitrary.
Performance is king, but exceeding expectations count for something. At least in my grade book.
Today we'll start with the catching position.
We know the Royals took a massive blow to their starting lineup when Sal Perez went down with his knee injury in spring training. That sent the front office into some sort of bizarro panic mode where they shipped a pair of mid-level prospects for a career backup catcher.
Collectively, Royal catchers have hit .262/.284/.364 with an sOPS+ of 87. Not good. The league average catcher is hitting .244/.310/.396.
.232/.257/.341, OPS+ 62
Quintero is a backup. Plain and simple. And he's the catcher you end up with when your number one guy goes down with injury.
Hey, his offense is horrible. Nobody expected anything. Which is exactly what we got. He did hit 12 doubles in 144 plate appearances, which actually ties a career high for him set last season.
Defensively, he was charged with two passed balls and 12 wild pitches. That's not too bad for the amount of time he spent behind the dish. He also threw out 35 percent of all would-be base stealers. League average is around 27 percent. I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised by these numbers. It seemed like every time I watched him behind the plate, Quintero was uncorking late throws. Fundamentally, he just seemed lazy to me... Throwing from his knees and such.
The defense was probably better than league average and his offense was atrocious.
.269/.291/.358, OPS+ 77
The Royals have never liked Pena's defense. That's common knowledge. And it's understandable. It's why they felt the need to acquire Quintero. It also feels like the more Pena plays, the more his defense improves. Instead of being horrible, he's merely kind of bad.
This year, he's gunned down 13 of 50 base stealers. His 26 percent caught stealing rate is right in line with league average. Last year, he caught 36 percent. It makes me think that if the Royal pitcher does his job and keeps the runner close and delivers quickly to home, Pena has a better than average chance of catching base runners. His arm isn't an issue. On the wild pitch and passed ball front, he's allowed just eight balls to reach the backstop. Last year, in a little less than twice the innings, he allowed 23.
Now in his fourth season with the Royals, his offensive line pretty much resembles who he is as a hitter.
The Royals kept him instead of Quintero because he has another year of team control. Unspoken was the fact he's a switch hitter. It also would have been crazy embarrassing for them to admit the obvious that Quintero wasn't the defensive upgrade they thought they were getting when comparing to Pena. Oops.
.383/.383/.702, OPS+ 190
Small sample size alert.
Still, just a crazy start from the kid we were all counting on at the start of the season. Is Sal overrated? Sure. There's nothing in his minor league history to indicate he will continue to hit this way at the major league level. He has just 52 games under his belt for crying out loud. That's just a third of a season. It's entirely possible we're looking at a two-month long hot streak.
On the other hand, maybe he is this good offensively. That's a scary thought.
It's just damn good to have him back behind the plate.