Colorado’s Catching Situation

Lost in the Jason Bay, Marlon Byrd and Kelly Johnson signings, Miguel Olivo has agreed to a deal and will be joining the Rockies next year. The thought is that Olivo will be the Rockies backup catcher, but could he challenge incumbent Chris Iannetta for playing time?

After hitting .264/.390/.505 with 18 homers in 407 plate appearances in 2008, Iannetta was penciled in as the Rockies starting catcher going into the 2009 season. He started the ’09 campaign slowly, hitting .174/.333/.391 during the first month of the season. He bounced back in May, hitting 5 homers with a .276 average in 66 plate appearances. Late in the month of May, Iannetta hit the DL with a thigh strain. After his return from the DL, Iannetta’s batting average did not please the Rockies, and he lost playing time to Yorvit Torrealba. Iannetta played only 9 games in September and October, and ended the year with a .228/.344/.460 line with 16 homers in 350 plate appearances.

Iannetta’s LD% dropped from the 21.4% mark he posted in 2008, down to 16% in 2009. He also hit less grounders, focusing on getting the ball elevated in an attempt to hit more homers. His 14% HR/FB rate was down from his 18.2% mark he had in 2008.

While a drop off in LD% is not a good thing, most of Iannetta’s problems came from a fluky BABIP. His stats suggest an xBABIP around .306 last year, while his actual BABIP came in at a low .253 mark. Fans are currently projecting a .255 average with 21 homers for Iannetta, who is currently the 11th catcher being taken off the board according to Mock Draft Central’s ADP reports.

Olivo is another power hitting catcher, but doesn’t walk like Iannetta does. Olivo posted a .249/.292/.490 line playing for the Royals last year, adding 23 homers to the mix in 416 plate appearances. A career big league line of .243/.278/.423 is disgusting, but his raw power potential has attracted many teams to Olivo and given him a career for the last eight years. Right now he is the 16th catcher off the board according to ADP, but that is likely to decline now that he is no longer a starting catcher.

It seems that the Rockies intend for Iannetta to hold onto the starting role next year, but have a backup plan just in case. They don’t trust Iannetta for some reason, but if he can manage to keep Lady Luck off his back next year, Iannetta should be able to hold onto the starting catchers job and give good value to fantasy owners.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

7 Responses to “Colorado’s Catching Situation”

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  1. Omar Q. says:

    16th according to…

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  2. Jason says:

    As an Iannetta owner in an APBA league, it was maddening to watch Torrealba and his empty batting average be the reason Iannetta was riding the pine late in the year. Argh!

    Okay, I’m done.

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  3. Marc H says:

    I feel Olivo will be a better all around option than Yorvit. I felt that Iannetta gassed out towards season end while pressing to produce what everyone thought he should. Iannetta competing in the WBC could have been a minor factor.

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    • Bluecaboose says:

      I think that Olivo is not a solution for this team. We don’t need another Clint Barmes in the lineup, and even with Iannetta hitting .230 he walks enough that he has an obp of .350.

      Even assuming that his babip equalized to about .290 with just singles (somewhat unlikely due to his very high fb%), Iannetta’s 2009 line looks something like .263/.371/.494. Iannetta is already a top 10 catcher, even with his weak 2009 season, but this puts him on par with mccann and vmart. If Iannetta loses playing time to Olivo like he lost playing time to Torrealba, I will be severely confused. When you have a catcher as good as Iannetta, you don’t need to be finding a backup like Olivo, you can pull up someone like Paul Phillips to give him a rest every week or so.

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  4. geo says:

    Iannetta should be the starter. That said, I don’t think Olivo would have signed with the Rockies without some promise as to his playing time. He complained a lot in KC when he was splitting time with John Buck in 2008, so much so that he was given a promise that he would be the starter in 2009. Odd move for the Rockies.

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