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Replace Your Struggling Backstop?

In every life, a little rain must fall.” — My Blue Heaven

In honor of the above statement, we’re going to piggyback Michael Barr’s Definitive Guide To All Things Depressing here and make it catcher specific. While those who made the investment in Buster Posey, Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer are resting easy in the comfort of an all-star catcher’s mitt, there are many of us who saw a golden opportunity this spring to go a little cheaper on our backstops and still land some high-end production. The position seemed unusually deep this year, so really…how bad could it be? Well, there’s an air of disappointment that surrounds many of the catchers we thought we were getting and now we’re all left wondering if any of these guys are actually going to produce.

Salvador Perez, KC — The slow start to the season didn’t do anyone who drafted the highly-touted backstop any favors and despite batting .369 for the month of May, the average was as empty as the half a glass is that I’m holding here. The complete inability to draw a walk and a high ground-ball rate haven’t done him any justice and those who fell for the .170 ISO he posted last year are still wondering how he even managed to hit three home runs this year. He has steadily improved both his walk and strikeout rates each month and his fly ball rate has ascended monthly as well, but unless he can stop mashing the ball into the dirt nearly half the time, we could be looking at an empty average all year.

A.J. Pierzynski, TEX — In truth, his year hasn’t really been all that disappointing as few people expected him to repeat that crazy career-year he posted last season. But for those 50 of you who were hoping to get a free FanGraphs+ subscription out of me next year, here’s your plate of disappointment served with a side of nyah, nyah, nyah!

Jesus Montero, SEA — I believe Mr. Barr said it perfectly when he wrote, “Just blech.” I believe there was also a “peeeeeee-YOU” in there as well. It not only sums up this season for Montero, but considering the Mariners said he’ll never catch for them again, it probably sums up his career, past, present and future too.

Miguel Montero, ARI — Probably one of the most enigmatic drop-offs this season as Montero used to be money in the bank with his steady production. The walk rate is fine, the strikeout rate is comparable to years past and there’s no news of any lingering injury that could be inhibiting him at the plate. But with an unusually high 1.56 GB/FB and a .275 BABIP which sits significantly lower to his career .314 mark, Montero continues to struggle. There’s nothing out of whack in his swing rates and he’s making similar contact to last year. But the balls aren;t bouncing for him. His line drive rate has improved each month which offers a glimmer of hope, but until he, like Perez, can lower that ground ball rate, he and his owners will be enduring his least productive season since 2010 when he was hurt for most of the year.

Victor Martinez, DET — The catcher eligibility in so many leagues screamed “draft me as so many have forgotten who I am,” and Martinez was considered a bargain as he dropped beyond the 10th round on numerous occasions. But did we not learn anything from when Joey Votto injured his knee and then couldn’t hit the long ball?  Martinez continues to struggle with power but it doesn’t look like it’s because of a low fly-ball rate. His mark of 38.8-percent is comparable with his rates in the past. It looks like it’s stemming from the fact that the majority of contact he is making is on pitches outside the zone. He’s lofting the same number of pitches, but he’s not getting good wood on the ball and driving it as he’s done before. But with his line drive rate dropping steadily each month and those line drives turning into ground balls rather than fly balls makes me think that he’s just not making the right adjustments and perhaps the knees are too much of an inhibitor. Maybe some time off during the All Star break will help, but perhaps he just needs to take a mulligan on the year and start against fresh in 2014.

Alex Avila, DET — From bad to worse here in Motown as Avila is stinking it up almost as badly as Martinez is. While he’s got himself a nice walk rate to help juice his still-woeful OBP, he’s striking out nearly 31-percent of the time and a 50.5-percent ground ball rate isn’t really helping anyone either. You can also look to his much-lower contact rates this year as well as his career-worst 11.4 percent swinging strike rate. Injuries continue to inhibit any potential growth and it’s really at the point where if you haven’t given up on him yet, you probably should.