Over the last few years, the phrase "Royals' catchers" has been pluralized only by technicality. It has been Salvador Perez's show to run, and his backups have been asked merely to show up once every one or two weeks and display the barest levels of competency.
For obvious reasons, we'll focus most of this review on Perez. Sure, Drew Butera and several others made infrequent appearances behind the plate, but let's not kid ourselves: they're only here in case one of Perez's limbs falls off, or if it's the last inning of the World Series.
|Royals Catchers, 2015|
*Minimum 40 games played. All stats in this series compiled from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.
It's risky to put Perez behind the plate so often, but if Perez had his way, he'd probably start all 162 games, then fly to the Australian league and catch under a pseudonym until he himself got caught and sent back to the U.S.
In 2014, the Royals rode Perez into the ground. His second half stats were abysmal and he abandoned any semblance of what plate discipline he had at the plate, culminating in his soul-destroying pop-up in his final at-bat of the 2014 World Series.
Perez caught 139 regular season games in 2015, a slight decrease from 146 in 2014, but still more than any other catcher in the league. By the time the 2015 World Series was over, Perez had set a Major League record for most innings caught over the span of two years. The wear and tear began to show on Perez towards the end of the season, as he continued to don the mask despite getting dinged up seemingly once a week. We all know this is a problem — Ned Yost has said it himself, multiple times — but Perez is simply too valuable to bench, especially when the alternative options are less than desirable.
The good news is that Perez didn't have any sort of nosedive in 2015 like he did in 2014. He once again experienced a second-half decline, but it was not as noticeable as the year before.
|Salvador Perez Splits, 2014-2015|
|'14, 1st Half
||85||.283||.329||.437||5.5||11.2||115||'15, 1st Half
|'14, 2nd Half
||64||.229||.236||.360||1.2||17.8||61||'15, 2nd Half
The bad news is that, save the first month of the season, Perez never really came all that close to his 2014 first-half levels at any point in 2015. He swung at everything and rarely walked. At 25, Perez still has plenty of time to improve at that plate, but it would have been nice to see him put up stronger numbers.
On the other hand, Perez set the Royals' single-season record for home runs by a catcher (21). He also finished the year off with a strong postseason, hitting .259/.328/.517 with a 131 wRC+ — miles ahead of his 2014 postseason line (.509 OPS, 40 wRC+).
Perez's defense has been as constant as his presence behind the plate. He won his third-straight Gold Glove this year and certainly passed the eye test for it. The metrics don't back him up as much this year, but Salvy's arm continues to be a plus. He shut down more attempted steals than all but two catchers.
Pitch framing remains Perez's biggest defensive liability. He again ranked near the bottom of the league, and his inability to figure it out is the one thing that's holding him back on defense. And then, of course, there's everything Perez has to offer off the diamond. The bromance with Lorenzo Cain. The endless stream of Gatorade showers over the course of the summer. The perfume. That smile. That smile! Salvador Perez is one of the most lovable guys on a team filled with lovable guys. Never change, Sal.
Grade: Perez is probably deserving of around a B for this season, but then he had to go and win the World Series MVP award. I've seen some professors give students who ace the final an automatic A. Salvador Perez aced the final. A+.
What's next: Perez remains under team control for this year, with a team option for the three years following. However, the team may look to restructure his contract this offseason.
The Royals acquired Butera from the Angels in May in exchange for Ryan Jackson. Butera unseated Erik Kratz and immediately slid into the backup catcher role, which presumably involves standing in a big glass box with the words "BREAK ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY" on the front.
Butera hovered around replacement-level when he was inserted into games, so no one can say he did not take his job literally. His batting line will inspire no one, but he didn't blow any games and actually managed to throw out nearly half of all would-be base stealers over the course of the season.
In the postseason, Butera received slightly more plate appearances than Kratz did the year before — two, as compared to zero — but he made the most of them, drawing a key walk in the Game 4 rally against Houston in the ALDS.
He also caught the final out of the World Series.
Grade: Butera did what was asked of him, and nothing more. C.
What's next: The Royals tendered Butera a contract, and they agreed to a one-year contract just north of $1 million to avoid arbitration. But the Royals also acquired backup Tony Cruz from the Cardinals, suggesting Butera will be in a spring training battle for the backup role.
- Erik Kratz appeared in four games with the Royals, did not record a hit, got injured, and was eventually DFA'd. After bouncing around on waivers for the rest of 2015, he'll head to spring training with the Padres. Grade: F.
- Francisco Pena appeared in eight games, seven of which saw him enter in the eighth inning or later. Most of those appearances were after rosters expanded, and Pena finally got his first major league hit on the last day of the season. Grade: Incomplete.