Previewing The 2022-23 Free Agent Class: Catcher

September 20, 2022

There’s solely two weeks left within the common season, and half the league is all however formally out of postseason rivalry at this level. All 30 groups are assuredly waiting for the offseason to some extent, and that’s all of the extra true for the golf equipment which might be merely enjoying out the string. Figuring out free agent targets is an enormous a part of that offseason prep work, so it’s value taking an early take a look at the gamers who’ll be obtainable on the open market.

Over the approaching weeks, MLBTR will go across the diamond to preview the free agent class. We’ll start at present with the backstops, a gaggle that appeared moderately deep coming into the 2022 season however has since seen most of its membership wrestle via subpar years.

High of the Class

Contreras is the unquestioned prime participant on this yr’s catching class. He’s one of many sport’s preeminent offensive backstops, eclipsing 20 residence runs in every of the previous three full seasons. Contreras hits lots of ground-balls and has a good bit of swing-and-miss to his sport, however his exit velocities and arduous contact charges are constantly properly above common. That’s additionally true of his bottom-line outcomes. By 462 plate appearances, Contreras carries a .246/.351/.471 line that shatters the .229/.297/.370 mark compiled by catchers across the league. He’s tailed off a bit within the second half after an All-Star first few months, however he has a multi-year monitor file as one of many higher hitting catchers within the sport.

The considerations with Contreras lie on the opposite facet of the ball. He owns a strong arm, however public pitch framing metrics have by no means been enamored along with his work. Stories main as much as the commerce deadline instructed some groups have been cautious of including him midseason, questioning his capacity to adapt to and handle a brand new pitching employees on the fly. That’s maybe not as regarding for groups contemplating a free agent pursuit — Contreras would have a part of the offseason and Spring Coaching to attach along with his pitchers — however there was ostensibly sufficient fear about his game-calling acumen that no workforce met the Cubs lofty asking value this summer season. How a lot one ought to learn into Contreras not being traded is hard to inform, however it’s going to have a tangible impact on his free agent market. He’s now eligible for the qualifying supply, which he’ll absolutely obtain and reject. Any signing workforce must give up a draft option to convey him aboard, which wouldn’t have been the case if he have been moved midseason, since gamers traded midseason are ineligible for a QO.

Regulars

A longtime member of the Crimson Sox, Vázquez was dealt to the Astros midseason. He’s assumed extra of a 1b/backup position there behind Martín Maldonado, however he was an everyday in Boston and can probably be seen as such by any workforce that indicators him this offseason. Vázquez is a strong two-way catcher, an above-average defender who’s usually competent with the bat. He’s rated as a high-end pitch framer all through his profession, though his numbers have been roughly common the previous two years. He’s sometimes strong at chopping down opposing base-stealers, and he’s drawn sturdy critiques for his sport administration and management in a clubhouse. Vázquez isn’t an affect hitter, however he places the ball in play and constantly runs sturdy batting averages. His .275/.318/.396 line is about common total however clearly above-average for a catcher, and he’s able to holding his personal on the backside third of a lineup. Vázquez might not have a standout ability, however he’s a well-rounded participant who’d be an improve for a good variety of groups.

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Narváez has had an atypical profession. He’s had particular person seasons as a properly above-average hitter, a high quality left-handed bat with wonderful plate self-discipline and robust contact expertise. He earned a repute as a bat-first participant throughout his early days with the White Sox and Mariners, each due to his productiveness on the dish and his dismal pitch framing marks behind it. Since being traded to Milwaukee heading into the 2020 season, Narváez has flipped the script. He’s rated as a dramatically higher receiver — one of many sport’s greatest, the truth is — however been a below-average hitter in two of three years. That features 2022, the place he’s stumbled to a .214/.301/.324 line with simply 4 homers in 269 plate appearances. Narváez has proven the power to be one of many league’s higher catchers on either side of the ball, simply by no means on the identical time.

Hedges has by no means hit, however he’s been a main catcher in San Diego and Cleveland for the previous half-decade based mostly on his wonderful glove. He’s an impressive pitch framer who’s thrown out an above-average 30% of tried basestealers for his profession. The Guardians are among the many league’s greatest groups at stopping runs, they usually’ve trusted Hedges with guiding their gifted pitching staffs for two-plus seasons. Amongst regulars, Hedges could be the least productive offensive participant in MLB although. He’s hit beneath .180 for 4 straight years, not topping a .255 on-base share or a .315 slugging mark in any of these seasons. There’ll in all probability be groups keen to reside with the dearth of output on the plate due to Hedges’ defensive repute, however he makes loads of outs on the backside of a lineup.

Acquired from the Yankees to serve a hybrid catcher/DH position in Minnesota, Sánchez has gotten a good bit of defensive work on account of a Ryan Jeffers thumb fracture. He has a wonderful arm however has been a lot maligned for his work as a receiver. Sánchez’s pitch framing metrics this season are a hair above-average, however he’s struggled in that regard in prior years and constantly has hassle blocking balls within the filth. Whereas he’s been alright for Minnesota defensively, he hasn’t lived as much as his repute as a bat-first participant. He’s hitting .213/.279/.382 over 420 plate appearances, connecting on 14 residence runs however struggling to achieve base for a 3rd consecutive season. Sánchez’s early-career days as an affect bat within the Bronx are actually properly within the rearview mirror, however he nonetheless presents extra pop than most catchers.

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The Tigers acquired Barnhart from the Reds at first of final winter, believing they’d solidified a place of want with a revered veteran. Sadly for each Barnhart and Detroit, he’s posted the worst season of his profession. Over 277 journeys to the plate, he has just one homer and a .209/.274/.256 slash. Barnhart has all the time been a below-average hitter, however this yr’s on-base and slugging marks are simply profession lows. He’s a very good defender who’s extremely regarded for his capacity to deal with a pitching employees, a broadly related participant to Hedges however two years older and with a extra strong than elite pitch framing monitor file.

Zunino has proven high-end potential at his greatest. Constantly wonderful protection provides him a excessive flooring, however he’s additionally proven extra offensive upside than many of the glove-first gamers in the marketplace. That features a 2021 marketing campaign through which he blasted 33 residence runs and slugged .559. Even with a strikeout price in extra of 35%, Zunino was a high quality hitter and really invaluable all-around participant. Had he replicated his 2021 manufacturing, he’d probably have been the #2 catcher in the marketplace this winter, however his 2022 marketing campaign was a catastrophe. He hit .148/.195/.304 in solely 36 video games earlier than being identified with thoracic outlet syndrome that required season-ending surgical procedure. He’s anticipated to be prepared for Spring Coaching, but it surely’s robust to know what to make of a participant coming off that form of platform yr.

Pérez’s story isn’t too dissimilar from Zunino’s. A career-long common, he was set to reprise that position in 2022 however had the yr principally worn out by harm. In his case, it was a left hamstring pressure that necessitated surgical procedure. He performed in simply 21 video games, his first season with the Pirates after a profession spent in Cleveland. Pérez is a Gold Glove caliber defender at his greatest, however he’s sometimes been a properly below-average hitter. He did join on 24 homers in 2019, however he has a .171/.269/.295 mark in components of three seasons since then.

Backups/Depth

Chirinos opened the season as Baltimore’s beginning catcher, however he misplaced the job when Adley Rutschman was known as up midseason. He struggled badly early on, and he carries solely a .178/.266/.278 line over 204 plate appearances on the yr. He’s constantly rated as a below-average receiving catcher.

Designated for task by the Crimson Sox final week, Plawecki completed his time in Boston with a disappointing .217/.287/.287 displaying throughout 175 plate appearances. He’d hit properly in restricted motion as Vázquez’s backup from 2020-21, however he’s been a below-average offensive participant for the majority of his profession. He’s had a really robust time throwing out tried basestealers, however he’s a succesful receiver.

A career-long #2 catcher, Casali brings a good right-handed energy bat to the bench. He strikes out rather a lot however presents a strong mix of plate self-discipline and energy. Casali misplaced a piece of this season to an indirect pressure and has a .211/.310/.331 line between the Giants and Mariners. He’s sometimes barely below-average at each controlling the run sport and pitch framing.

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Suzuki has 15 years of huge league expertise, together with a very good run as an everyday. A productive bat-first catcher in his prime, he’s struggled for 2 straight seasons with the Angels. He carries a .179/.263/.299 line over 152 journeys to the plate this yr.

Romine has break up the 2022 marketing campaign between three groups, suiting up with the Angels, Cardinals and Reds. He’s been a depth possibility in any respect three spots, and he owns only a .181/.211/.295 mark over 111 plate appearances. Romine was a productive backup for the Yankees early in his profession, however he’s settled into journeyman standing whereas struggling offensively since leaving New York.

One other glove-first journeyman, León had an excellent 2016 season with the Crimson Sox however has in any other case been a properly below-average hitter. He’s not hit above .200 or slugged north of .300 in any of the previous 5 seasons. León has spent most of 2022 in Triple-A, however he’s appeared in 32 large league video games with the Guardians and Twins.

Castro was a strong common for some time with the Astros and Twins, compensating for prime strikeout totals with wonderful stroll charges and pitch framing marks. He had a productive 2021 season as a backup after returning to Houston on a free agent deal, however this yr has been a catastrophe. Castro hit .115/.205/.179 over 34 video games and finally underwent season-ending surgical procedure on his left knee. He instructed reporters in Spring Coaching he’d take into account retirement after this season (hyperlink by way of Brian McTaggart of MLB.com). It stays to be seen how the disappointing trajectory of his 2022 marketing campaign performs into that call.

The well-regarded Vogt returned to Oakland, the place he’d been a productive fan favourite in the course of the final decade, for the 2022 marketing campaign. He’s bounced between catcher, first base and designated hitter however owns only a .168/.251/.315 line over 171 plate appearances. It’s his third consecutive properly below-average season.

Be aware: Yadier Molina is enjoying on a one-year contract with the Cardinals and can technically qualify without spending a dime company at season’s finish. He’s already declared 2022 shall be his last season, so he’s been excluded from this record in anticipation of his retirement.

* Listed ages are the participant’s age for the 2023 season. All stats via play September 18.