Spring Training Questions – Back-up Catcher


Last spring the Kansas City Royals lost Salvador Perez for an extended period of time and the trickle down seemed to be felt team wide. So what did Dayton Moore do to make sure the same won’t happen again in 2013 should Sheriff Sal go down with an injury?

The team brought in George Kottaras and acquired Brett Hayes from Miami during the offseason. Both catchers are 29 years old (Kottaras will turn 30 this season) plus have experience in the majors. So who’s the right choice to be the back-up catcher this season?

Of the two catchers I’m sure Kottaras is the more household name for most Royals fans (was a highly ranked prospect with the Padres and Red Sox). He’s been a part of playoff teams in Milwaukee and most recently with Oakland. In terms of what kind of player that he is, defense looks to be more of the calling card.

Who will backup Salvador Perez? Dayton Moore made sure to address this after what happened last spring. Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011 when the Brewers made the National League Championship Series he hit .252, which has been his highest batting average since being in the majors. But he spent most of that season as Jonathan Lucroy’s backup appearing in just 49 games getting 111 at-bats.

Last season he played in 58 games with Milwaukee and 27 after being traded to Oakland. He played in 85 games a career high and his offensive numbers match what he did in 2010 when he played in 67 total games in home runs/RBIs.

Moving onto Hayes he made his MLB debut in 2009 for the then Florida Marlins appearing in 14 games. His batting average was .273 which he’s not matched since but given that’s the fewest number of games played in his brief career.

An interesting note for Hayes is during 2011 he played multiple positions. It’s not uncommon for a catcher to see some time at first base but he also logged a couple games in left and right field. Before KC fans get excited it was just two innings but it’s something to consider, even if Hayes is unlikely to play the outfield.

Last season he committed his first errors in his career he committed five playing 33 games at catcher for Miami. Hayes did set a career high with 21 assists and posted a .980 fielding percentage in 247 chances even with five errors.

So how can you choose among two guys who seem to be identical? Both played in the National League last season and were primarily their team’s backup while posting similar numbers. We’ve been spoiled in the short time with Perez as the Royals catcher.

But as originally stated in case of emergency one of these two guys will get the call to keep the staff a float. In a narrow decision I think that I’d go with Kottaras as the second string catcher since I really don’t like the idea of three catchers.

So why Kottaras? I go with a guy whose caught pretty good pitchers with the Brewers and A’s plus his playoff “experience even with it just being seven games”. Yeah, it’s only seven games, but it’s seven more games than Hayes, not that it’s the end all determinant but the high pressure works is a nice feather in the hat.

Again a backup catcher should be counted on a few times a week and does a good enough job when behind the clear cut starter. Ideally, they don’t have to fill in for Perez but the 2013 Royals seem to have better options this spring than last year.