This off season has seen quite a few moves for the Arizona Diamondbacks under direction of GM Dave Stewart. Among the speculated positions affected by off season trades has been the position of catcher, or field general for the club. The Diamondbacks eventually traded regular behind the plate stalwart Miguel Montero to the Chicago Cubs, leaving the starting spot behind the plate wide open to speculation. With that in mind let’s look at who the Arizona Diamondbacks have as options for donning the “tools of ignorance” for the 2015 season.
First up is Tuffy Gosewisch, who has been named as the starting catcher recently by the front office. In an article penned by Arizona Republic, columnist Nick Piecoro says that the Arizona Diamondbacks “have two apparently light-hitting, glove-first types” in Gosewisch and Rule 5 pick Oscar Hernandez. Gosewisch, to his credit, has experience behind the plate while Hernandez is a true rookie, having spent several seasons in the Tampa Rays farm system.
In 2014 Gosewisch started in 31 games, seeing 281 1/3 innings of work recording a fielding percentage of .996 with 241 put-outs and 18 assists. Offensively, he hit .225/.242/.310 with 7 RBI’s and one home run. FanGraphs predicts he will see 75 games with 301 plate appearances hitting .218/.255/.328 while driving in 26 RBI’s and collecting five home runs. Despite a lower batting average, his production will improve at the plate. Something the Diamondbacks clearly need from every position this season.
The Diamondbacks picked up Oscar Hernandez in the Rule 5 Draft during the off-season. Hernandez was a prospect for the Tampa Rays from 2010 through 2014. His last Single-A Minor League season saw Hernandez hitting .249/.301/.401 during 397 plate appearances in 64 games. During those at-bats he managed to hit 9 home runs while driving in 63 RBI’s. Not bad for an untested rookie looking to move up to the big leagues.
Not to be forgotten is Peter O’Brien, the power-hitting catcher that was aquired in the Martin Prado trade with the New York Yankees last July. O’Brien has impressed the Diamondbacks with his Arizona Fall League (AFL) perfomance this past fall, which has the club disagreeing with the overall impression that O’Brien lacks the skills neccesary to be an adequate behind the plate defensive catcher. A category that the Arizona Diamondbacks have been in the upper half of the category in offensive production in more years than not.
New Manager Chip Hale had this to say about O’Brien and his potential as a catcher, “He’s a great learner,” adding that “One of the things we were really impressed with in the fall league was his ability to work with different pitchers and earn their trust. You really need to know if your pitchers like to throw to him and feel good throwing to him.”
O’Brien’s AFL numbers don’t lie here. He was a starting catcher for the 2014 AFL Champion Salt River Rafters where in 25 games he managed to hit .256/.393/.512/.904 with 86 at bats driving in 15 RBI’s while managing to slug five home runs. Not bad for a guy learning the craft of playing baseball behind the plate.
With all of these options at catcher, choosing Gosewisch as the starter is in my opinion the right choice. O’Brien proves to be a guy that can fill in for Tuffy if he needs a day or two off, as he’s shown he’s learning and his skills are accelerating at a pace that pleases the front office and the Diamondbacks coaching staff.
Hernandez is obviously the future, only time will tell if he’s invited to Spring Training this season and if he’ll make an impact considering the Dbacks believe O’Brien is their catcher of the future. Despite not wanting “help from the outside” for this position, I think the Arizona Diamondbacks have three players who are more than qualified to fit the bill as a big league catcher.