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.