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Catcher Injuries: Say It With Flowers…This Year and Next

Last week, we were looking at catchers who were having great months in August and had the potential to help fantasy teams, if even just for a short time.  One of the names mentioned was White Sox backstop A.J. Pierzynski who was  hitting .410 for the month with one home run and six RBI.  Unfortunately though, the timing could not have been worse as Pierzynski was hit on the wrist and missed a few games before the team placed him on the 15-day DL.  His owners, and those that were about to take a chance on him, were left to sift through the waiver bin, hoping to land someone that could carry them through.  But why search other teams hoping that their starters were somehow still available, when you could just as easily fix the problem “in-house”?  It’s time for Tyler Flowers.

Flowers has been the heir apparent on the South Side ever since he was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the Javier Vazquez deal in 2008.  Several speculated that he was better suited at first base or as a designated hitter, but the Sox stuck with their plans and continued to cultivate him as a catcher. With Pierzynski in an apparent decline, most pundits figured that, despite some defensive deficiencies behind the plate, the big 6′ 4″, 220 lb righty with a plus bat was going to get the call sooner rather than later.  A quick cup of coffee in the bigs last season resulted in just 15 plate appearances, but now that Pierzynski is injured, Flowers will get a much better shot at proving himself.

Along with some outstanding power, Flowers is also known for his quality on-base skills.  So far, in Triple-A this season, he has hit 15 HR in 270 plate appearances (.239 ISO) and has a wOBA of .397.  In fact, save for some struggles during his 2010 campaign, Flowers hasn’t posted an ISO lower than .200 in a year since he was in A-ball with the Braves in 2007, nor has he seen his wOBA fall below .350 in any year.  Unfortunately though, he is also known for his strikeouts and low contact rates.  Sort of a sink or swim mentality, it seems.  His 31.1 K% in Triple-A this year is a bit concerning, but if he can continue to rake, then perhaps his whiffs become a little more tolerable.

As for this year, it’s so far, so good for Flowers.  Obviously the sample size is small, but all looks good with him batting .286 with one home run and three RBI in just 41 plate appearances.  His 26.8% strikeout rate is a relative improvement from his minor league numbers and it is complemented nicely by a 14.6 BB%.  He’ll definitely have his ups and downs in the short time remaining in 2011, but it’s a learning curve for him right now.  He should perform well enough to provide you with a little bit of punch from behind the plate this season and more than enough confidence to give him a look as the starting catcher for the White Sox in 2012.