Pirates Early Season Preview Part 1: Catcher
At this moment this is what pirates.com lists as the Pirates depth chart for catcher:
1. Chris Snyder
2. Ryan Doumit
3. Jason Jaramillo
I was intrigued to see that Tony Sanchez was not on this list, however with the injury halting his season, he will need more time and thus Jaramillo is the third person on the depth chart at this moment.
Obviously today is December 22, 2010 and not April 1, 2011, and a lot can happen between now and then.
First and foremost is the uniform of Ryan Doumit come April 1. With the signings of Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay, it looks like Doumit’s options are slim and perhaps none. Doumit in the outfield was shaky at best, however his catching background gave him the strongest arm in the outfield. Still, Doumit is the team’s fifth outfielder behind Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, Garrett Jones and Diaz which results in no much action. It would also make little sense to try the first base experiment either, as Doumit is a lefty like Overbay and he had a lot of trouble defensively at the position in his feeble attempts last season. Doumit will be used sparingly if at all at the position and only if Overbay would need a day off. This would only be because of Doumit’s power bat which many Pirates fans witnessed last season.
Doumit at catcher is not much better, and Chris Snyder took the starting job away from Doumit and proved to be a great addition at the deadline. The Doumit catching experience reached an all-time low last season, as he failed to throw out 10% of all runners trying to steal a base and once again Doumit got injured. Each of the past few seasons, Doumit has been the team’s starting catcher, but injuries have either reduced or ended his season. It is obvious that Doumit is a defensive liability where ever he is placed on the diamond and thus it has been really hard to trade him and his expensive salary. If the team (almost) miraculously trades Doumit, it would likely be to an American League team, as he seemingly projects more as a Designated Hitter.
Chris Snyder will at least start the season as the team’s starting catcher, with Doumit, likely an expensive backup. Snyder unlike Doumit has been a good defender for his position and does have some pop in his bat. Although his average is almost never high, Snyder can hit the home run and will be aided by the short left field that PNC Park has to offer. A big part of the defense Snyder has to offer is the way he helps to call the game for the pitcher, and pitchers trusted Snyder very quickly and it showed as with Snyder behind the plate, the pitchers seemed to find more success.
Jason Jaramillo started last season as the backup catcher however he often found himself riding the bench. This was a change for him, as he shared starting catcher duties with Robinzon Diaz (although he started more games) last season and in 2010 was not playing much. Pirates Management concluded that Jaramillo must receive some playing time, and thus they sent him down to Triple-A to catch and sent Spring Training success story Erik Kratz up to the Major Leagues. Jaramillo got some much needed starts for the Indianapolis Indians, but after another Doumit injury, he and Kratz both had opportunities to catch. After the deadline deal that sent Snyder to the Pirates, Snyder got the bulk of the starts at catcher and eventually Doumit came back, essentially rendering both Kratz and Jaramillo useless. This off-season, Kratz was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, and thus Jaramillo comes into Spring Training as the third catcher.
The wild card in this whole thing is Tony Sanchez. Sure he has played in the Fall League, but it will be interesting to see if he performs in Spring Training. If he does, he could be the backup catcher. It truly is that close of a competition, as Doumit if traded would create a battle for the backup catcher position between Jaramillo and Sanchez.
Listed below are two projected lists, with one being with Doumit and one being without Doumit:
Here is my thought process on this:
The top one is displayed the way it is, because if Doumit is the backup, then the order will not matter. I think that regardless, Sanchez is a better overall catcher than Jaramillo, and he will prove that at camp. In the top scenario, Doumit is still on the team, and it does not matter who the third catcher is, as both will play in the Minors. In the second scenario, Doumit obviously is no longer on the team. I have placed Jaramillo second for the same reason that he was placed into the Minors. The Pirates may be slow to place Sanchez in the backup role for a variety of reasons. For one, Sanchez is young, and thus you want him in his prime when he will perform his best. It also brings up the arbitration period as the Pirates are a small market team, and they can slowly bring him up and avoid paying the big bucks earlier than they will need to be paid. Another reason is the injury. The Pirates purely for safety purposes may place Sanchez in the Minors to see how he performs. Finally, much like Jaramillo last season, Sanchez needs starts to help his development and for that reason, it would not make sense for him to be a backup.
I feel that this is a pretty in-depth look (at least from a December 22nd perspective) at the catcher’s position for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I will be back soon to delve into the next position which will be the first base position.