Francisco Pena Should be the Royals Backup Catcher in 2015

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Let us steal Professor Peabody’s WayBack Machine and travel to the ancient times of….just before last year’s trade deadline. One of the pieces that the Kansas City Royals needed was a better backup catcher, as Brett Hayes was doing his best Bill Bergen impression, only without Bergen’s excellent defense. Hayes just was not a major league caliber backup catcher.

At the time, it seemed as though the easiest way to upgrade would be to give Francisco Pena a chance to fill the role. Instead of making a trade, it would just require sending Hayes to the minors, which was not exactly a great loss. Instead, the Royals traded for Liam Hendriks and Erik Kratz. Since it only cost Danny Valencia, why not make the move?

Now, it may be time to give Pena a real chance at the backup job. Last season, Pena produced a .240/.280/.515 batting line, hitting 27 home runs. While Pena draws a walk about as often as Billy Butler stole a base, he does not strike out often, as only 17.6% of his at bats ended via the strikeout.

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While Francisco Pena displayed a tremendous amount of power last season, there were some concerns. He only had an 8.1% line drive rate, but hit the ball in the air 45.1% of the time. While that helped lead to that impressive 27 home run mark, Pena only had a .216 batting average on balls in play during his time in Omaha. That certainly helps explain that batting line.

With a better approach, and a leveler swing, Pena could be more than just someone that can hit home runs. While he is never likely to hit for a high batting average, he could, at the very least, be competent at the plate. Considering some of the catchers that the Royals have gone through, competent would be a dramatic upgrade.

Even if nothing changes, Francisco Pena would give the Royals another potential power bat on the bench. Even if he cannot hit like Salvador Perez, at least when Perez is going well, Pena could be someone that could contribute a fair amount of home runs in limited duty. Add in his strong arm and solid defense, and Pena seems like the perfect backup to Perez.

Francisco Pena may never be a star player, but he could be a useful major league backup. Hopefully, he gets more than the one inning that he had last year in Kansas City.

Next: Mark Peterson Could be the Future of the Royals Bullpen

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