Lack of offensive production from catcher could be an issue for the Arizona Diamondbacks
With spring training just a few weeks away, Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, seems to have his roster set.
Coming into camp at Salt River, perhaps the greatest competition lay in slots for the starting rotation and the fourth outfielder. One area of concern remains behind the plate. With the departure of the productive-hitting Welington Castillo, his absence could be notable.
Learning to frame from the defensive standpoint, and adding a solid offensive dimension with his bat, Castillo’s numbers last season will not be matched. That’s because Hazen brought in veterans Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta, both strong with the glove but weak with the stick.
Combined, Mathis and Iannetta have 23 years of major league experience but a collective .213 batting average. That includes Mathis as a .197 career hitter.
That is nowhere near numbers supplied by Castillo.
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Last season, the native of San Isidro, Castillo, a native of Distrito Nacional, Dominican Republic hit a career-high .264, banged out a career-high 24 doubles, slammed 14 homers and knocked in a career-best 68 runs. For 2016, Castillo made $3.7 million with Arizona and Ken Kendrick, the Diamondbacks’ general managing partner and the man with the checkbook, decided he would not pay Castillo his asking price.
In that regard, the Diamondbacks did not offer Castillo a contract, and the catcher subsequently signed a two-year deal with Baltimore for an estimated $13 million. Where Kendrick may have saved money, the Diamondbacks will be hard-pressed to get any offensive numbers from those behind the plate.
In compensation, Hazen and Torey Lovullo, the club’s field manager, hope to receive a veterans’ presence that is stepped in guiding a pitching staff and contribute with an emphasis on leadership and defensive execution.
In the meantime, an offensively strong club like the Diamondbacks may not lose a beat with weak bats behind the plate. Given the emergence of Jake Lamb at third and healthy bodies in A. J. Pollock and David Peralta back in the outfield, Hazen and Lovullo hope stronger bats can pick up weaker bats. Plus, numbers put up by Paul Goldschmidt in recent seasons suggest that loss of Castillo’s offense may be more marginal than definitive.
If the Diamondbacks head into spring training with Mathis and Iannetta as the principal catchers, Hazen added another catcher with major league experience. Signing veteran back-stopper Josh Thole, a left-handed bat with a career .242 batting average in eight seasons combined with the Mets and Blue Jays, Thole gives the organization depth behind the plate. It’s unlikely the Diamondbacks will carry three catchers. Thole will have beat Mathis or/and Iannetta for a spot on the opening day, 25-man roster.
Pitchers and catchers report to Salt River on Monday, Feb. 13 and first workouts are slated for the following day. Position players report on Thursday, Feb. 16 and commence workouts the following day.