There seem to be a number of catcher situations that are going to bear watching over the next month or so as platoon splits could start or already have begun to change. We’ve already begun to witness changes in Chicago and Washington as rookie Josh Phegley is overtaking Tyler Flowers while Kurt Suzuki, as expected, is passing the baton over to Wilson Ramos. But there are other situations where the change has been a lot more subtle but could start to be a little more evident as we move forward.
The catcher situation on the Angels has always been a testy one for fantasy owners as manager Mike Scioscia, a former catcher, is extremely particular about his backstops and, as we once saw with Mike Napoli, he is more than willing to sacrifice offense for better defensive play behind the plate. But while you’ll still hear criticisms of Conger’s arm, his ability to frame pitches coupled with a more consistent bat has allowed him to see a steady increase in playing time through the first half. Iannetta is still the primary, but has seen his plate appearances diminish just as much as his batting average and power production. His ability to draw a walk and subsequent on-base percentage will help keep him a big part of the mix, but so long as Conger continues to improve the rest of his defensive game, his power and consistent bat will give him more of an edge down the road.
Fantasy owners have been waiting two years for Dusty Baker to wise-up and start using the highly-touted Mesoraco over the perennial platoon partner/back-up Hanigan, but to no avail. Each season, the split has been a lot closer to 50/50 with Hanigan consistently seeing the edge in playing time. To open the season, Hanigan was again set up as the primary, but injuries derailed that plan and the door had opened for Mesoraco to take over the lead role. But despite seeing more time in April, Mesoraco did little to improve his standing and come May, even with another series of dings and dents for Hanigan, the two shared time almost equally. A major slump and ankle injury gave Mesoraco the edge again in June and now in July, just when you thought Hanigan was starting to gain his primary spot again, a wrist irritation has kept Mesoraco in the game, so to speak. Since he’s not really taking over the job with his bat or his defense, Mesoraco owners will simply have to settle for the fact that an aging Hanigan is breaking down and that’s where they’ll continue to see the edge in playing time. It’s not the ideal reason for more work for Mesoraco, but moving forward, Hanigan’s inability to stay healthy could pave the way for a full transition.
We are all very much aware of the defensive prowess of Molina. He was actually named the Rays best defensive player after the 2012 season and he’s one of the best at framing pitches. However, with Molina’s fine defense comes a very weak stick. He’s got a career slash line of .240/.288/.345 and has never hit more than six home runs in a given season. But Joe Maddon had no problem supplying opposing teams with an easy out in the lineup so long as he was getting gold glove-caliber play in the field. This year though, things are starting to turn as Lobaton, a former waiver pick-up back in 2009 has slowly entrenched himself on the Rays roster. He beat out Chris Gimenez for the back-up job after spring training and when Molina went down with a hamstring injury in May, Lobaton showed that he was no slouch in the defense department and could also provide a little bit of offense as well. The two split time fairly evenly in June and they should continue down that path over the next month. But keep in mind that Molina is nearly 10 years Lobaton’s senior and is a free agent at the end of the year. Should the Rays look to make the full transition sooner than later, they could deal Molina to a team in need of veteran backstop help and hand over the reins to Lobaton full-time.