2013 Royals Season Review: Catcher

Ed Zurga

The Royals had a good starter and a good backup. That's weird.

Before completely moving on to the 2014 season, we should take a look back at the 2013 Kansas City Royals. Like most major-league teams, the Royals had some clear strengths and obvious weaknesses. We're going to examine the club by position, taking a closer look at who excelled and who should be replaced next season. Today, we start with the catchers:

Salvador Perez - Perez served as the team’s primary catcher, starting 126 games at the position and appearing in 137. He would have likely started more games had he not missed time with a concussion and family issues, but 126 starts sounds for Perez sounds like a good number to me.

The 23-year-old had a solid campaign at the plate, but probably not as strong as some people believe. Below is a table of Perez's offensive statistics in 2012

Not everyone here is a sabermagician, so if you don't know the meaning for one of the statistics used or just want some context for it, click on the statistical category. It should take you to an explanation, occasionally long-winded, of the specific stat.

PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
526 .292 .323 .433 4.0% 12.0%
BABIP ISO woBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
.311 .150 0.329 105 3.7 4.1

Perez doesn’t walk and shows no indication that he ever will, which limits his offensive ceiling. He does make solid contact, is an average power hitter and plays a premium defensive position. Altogether, it’s a strong package of skills.

I still feel like many Royals fans overrate Perez, especially as a hitter. He finished five percent above league average offensively last season; that's definitely a plus at catcher, but it doesn't warrant Perez needing extra at-bats at first base and designated hitter during his off-days. He's a quality defensive player who will be average to above-average at the plate depending on his BABIP.

Of course, you could also make the argument that I'm being too critical of a player with 3.7 fWAR at a position that potentially understates his impact on defense. Below is a table of Perez's defensive stats in 2013:

GS CS% FRAA TZ RAA DRS RAA dWAR
126 35% -1.7 6 11 2.3

He had an impressive season defensively (everyone but Baseball Prospectus thinks so), especially controlling the running game. Perez led the AL with 25 baserunners caught stealing and owned the fourth-highest caught stealing percentage. He finished the season with 2.4 dWAR, the fourth-highest number in the AL.

Perez made his first All-Star team this season, and managed to stay relatively healthy. For a 23-year-old playing in his first full big-league season, it was a strong showing. I do wish we could turn down the rhetoric when talking about Perez, but that's a problem with the coverage, not with the player.

The catcher should make some improvements between this season and next, but I don't envision a huge leap in 2014. He can improve defensively, but he's probably not going to reach Yadier Molina level status during his career. Perez can also add some power, but a four percent walk rate limits your offensive ceiling.

Locking up Perez long-term was one of Dayton Moore's best decisions; the Royals will only pay him $1.5 million next season, a pittance of what he's worth. Perez had a strong 2013 campaign, and should be a solid contributor for a number of seasons.

George Kottaras: Kottaras had one of the more memorable campaigns for a Royals backup catcher. It's pretty difficult for a hitter to provide league average value on offense while hitting .180, but he managed to do it anyways. His 2013 batting stats are listed below:

PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
126 .180 .349 .370 19.0% 33.3%
BABIP ISO woBA wRC+ fWAR rWAR
.245 .190 0.324 102 0.7 0.6

The left-handed hitter became a bit of darling among the nerds because of his penchant to take pitches and draw walks. It's not that Kottaras is an amazing hitter, but when you have watched a team of free swingers for years, it's easy to appreciate the guy who actually can work a count.

Early in the season, the drop-off between Kottaras and Perez seemed really noticeable to me, but I either got used to the difference, or Kottaras steadily improved behind the plate. SSS issues everywhere, but the catcher graded out as a roughly average fielder behind the plate.

GS CS% FRAA TZ RAA DRS RAA dWAR
29 26% -0.6 0 -1 0.2

His caught-stealing percentage was league-average; I would have bet money it was well-below average, which shows that Perez is quickly spoiling me. Kottaras will be eligible for arbitration next season. He earned $1 million in 2013, and shouldn't see too large of an increase.

Moore claiming Kottaras off waivers was a nice move, an inexpensive decision that helped the Royals win in 2013. You want back-ups like Kottaras who can fill-in and provide value, collectively giving you a few extra wins during the year. As the Royals look to pick up a few more wins next season, finding more bench players that can contribute is a cheap way to help.

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