The Royals entered spring training with relatively little drama in the way of position battles. While they didn't surprise anyone with their selection at second base, they turned the tables on everyone with their pick at fifth starter. Meanwhile, the competition at backup catcher has continued.
George Kottaras against Brett Hayes. And it looks like it's going down to the wire.
If you are going by spring offensive statistics, Kottaras has provided value by reaching base. He's hit .313/.476/406 this spring with nine walks and eight whiffs in 32 at bats. Meanwhile, Hayes has done his damage with power. His line is at .306/.375/.556 in 36 at bats. Hayes has a pair of home runs, a triple he hit in Tuesday's Cactus League pennant clincher and a double. Kottaras has three doubles.
Hayes leads in the all-important stat of RBI by a 10 to six margin.
Baseball Reference says both have faced roughly the same quality of pitching this spring. A nice, balanced competition.
Defensively, Kottaras doesn't provide much value behind the plate. His arm isn't great and he's not particularly adept at blocking pitches in the dirt. His defensive metrics (and reputation) aren't kind. Hayes is thought of as a better defender, although he's played roughly half the major league innings behind the plate. His metrics are much more in line with what a league average catcher would look like.
Kottaras is due $1 million in a contract he agreed to just two days before being waived by Oakland. Hayes is set to earn $600,000. Both players were Super-2, but Kottaras is a year ahead of Hayes in the arbitration process. If the Royals choose, they control Kottaras through the 2015 season, while Hayes won't hit free agency until after 2016. Both are out of options meaning they must pass through waivers if the Royals try to send them to the minors.
My feeling is it may come down to the trade market. As teams set their Opening Day rosters, someone may decide either Kottaras or Hayes represents an upgrade as their backup catcher. It's possible the Royals could flip one of the tandem for a low level minor leaguer. The Royals could be shopping both, looking for the best return.
Failing that, one of the two will be landing on the waiver wire in a few days.
We know Salvador Perez will get the majority of the time behind the plate. So for limited playing time do the Royals go with offense in Kottaras or defense in Hayes?