Welcome to the first installment of our Kings of Kauffman "KC Royals Lineup" series in which we'll be identifying and analyzing issues the club may face at each position heading into the 2023 season. Up today is catching.
Serious problems have plagued the KC Royals since 2016, the season they last seriously contended for a spot in the postseason. Starting pitching, holes at first and third bases and in right field, and declining defense and weak offense continue to block the club's path to October baseball.
Conspicuously absent from that list of maladies is catching, which isn't at all surprising considering the presence of Salvador Perez, owner of the biggest contract in franchise history, behind the plate. Only in 2019, when a torn UCL forced him out of action all year, did the Royals truly lack a superb catcher.
Barring anything more than the normal wear and tear catching visits upon those who, like Perez, have long manned the position (11 big league seasons so far for Perez), there will be no competition to determine which Royal starts behind the plate this season when spring camp opens next week. Perez will, no ifs, ands or buts about it, be the man when Kansas City begins the regular season March 30 at home against Minnesota. But even with Perez locked in, three big questions surround the club's catching corps.
Question 1: How much will Salvador Perez catch for the KC Royals this year?
Determining the extent of Perez's workload is the most critical catching issue confronting new manager Matt Quatraro. Perez's love of working behind the plate, and his desire to catch as often as possible, are both well-chronicled, but things Quatraro must, all things considered, keep in check.
Perez turns 33 in May, an age requiring close attention when it comes to catchers. The seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover, and club-record four-time Silver Slugger is also the catcher of over 1,100 major league games; consequently, he'll need more time off, which for Perez means weekly days off and taking turns at DH.
How often Quatraro rests Perez, then, is the question. Despite twice visiting the Injured List with thumb issues, Perez caught 124 times last season; look for that number to go down to around 110 this year.
On to the next question.