With the tragic loss of Salvador Perez for the season, what can the Kansas City Royals expect from his potential replacements?
Salvador Perez has been the stable gentleman behind the plate for the last eight years for the Kansas City Royals. He has done his stints on the DL, but not for a long term serious injury like this. The Royals have had few concerns about catching since he arrived, but now face a season with receivers who have played a grand total of 45 games in the Major Leagues.
Dayton Moore has stated he is comfortable moving into the season with his in-house options. So where does this leave them?
Perez gave the Royals Gold Glove-caliber play behind the plate and a solid bat with power. The biggest concern for me is the loss of his defense. He was one of the best at controlling the base path. His laser throws behind the runner and to second made opposing players cautious and conservative when on base. He cut down 25 of the 52 runners attempting to steal last year.
Even though the Royals are considered rich in catchers, they could take a bit of a hit here. Both Cam Gallagher and Meibrys Viloria are good defensive catchers, though neither seem as capable as Perez at controlling runners. Gallagher in his whopping 35 games as a Royal has thrown out three of fourteen runners and Viloria with a respectable three out of eight in ten games. In the minor leagues both hovered around the 33 percent range with Viloria being a little better at it.
Calling the game and receiving the pitch shouldn’t be a problem. Gallagher has caught many of the pitchers destined to be in Kansas City this year. His reputation is in handling pitchers and receiving. Viloria also grades well in both, but coming from High A ball, has only his fall experience working with the pitching staff. I actually like Viloria’s makeup better behind the plate but his lack of experience will probably mean he will be the backup catcher to start the season.
The Royals will miss Perez’s power. Neither Gallagher or Viloria have shown much ability to hit with much. Gallagher’s farm statistics would suggest a slash line of .250/.330/.360. Viloria was averaging similar numbers but with a higher slug in the low minors. However, watching him at bat last fall and even his spring statistics suggest he may be getting better and more confident at hitting at this level.
Even if the power is down from these two, both have shown much greater patience at the plate than Perez. Of coarse Salvy never saw a pitch he didn’t like, so improvement here will not be hard. With the Royals pushing hard to improve their on base percentage, this too may improve with both of them. Realistically the Royals want defense first but need their offense to contribute. The expectations are low, but I think Viloria may surprise us as the year go’s on. Nothing spectacular, but not a door mat either.
If one of these two get injured, the next two in line should be Nick Dini and Xavier Fernandez. Dini is more of a defensive guy and Fernandez has a bat to go with his glove. However if something did happen, the Royals would probably look for help outside the system before promoting these two. With so many new talented young pitchers playing on so many farm levels, its doubtful the Royals will rob the minors of their depth.
I expect the Royals will split the starts up more than when Perez is on the team. Neither Gallagher or Viloria has caught much more than 100 games in a season. I don’t expect either to do so this year. Gallagher will probably start the season catching the bulk of the games. As Viloria gets more experience with the staff, he should pick up more of the catching duties.
I am going to miss Salvy this year. His smiling face and presence on the field has been so familiar for so long. He will of course hang out in the dugout at times, but it won’t be the same until he is again the great Royal backstop!