When Chris Iannetta was acquired from the Colorado Rockies for Tyler Chatwood, he was expected to provide the Angels with a power bat from the catcher position. Despite struggling with injuries in his time in Colorado, he managed to hit 63 home runs in his six seasons, with a .235/.357/.430 batting line. While those numbers may not have been great, they were certainly better than what the Angels had after trading away Mike Napoli.
During his time in Los Angeles, Iannetta has been essentially the same player offensively. In his two seasons with the Angels, Iannetta has produced a .231/.348/.383 slash rate with 20 home runs. As expected, moving from the thin air of Colorado to the Angels has led to a decrease in power; however, Iannetta is not an appreciably different hitter.
While Chris Iannetta is expected to be the Angels starting catcher, he may not deserve to be. Hank Conger, who had been expected to be the Angels catcher of the future, actually produced a bit better than Iannetta last season. Conger produced a .249/.310/.403 batting line in 2013, compared to Iannetta’s .225/.358/.372 slash rate.
Defensively, Conger far outpaces Iannetta. By virtually every defensive metric, Iannetta was a below average catcher in 2013, costing the Angels seven runs just with his catching. When his ability to frame pitches is added in, Iannetta cost the Angels another 14.6 runs last year. Conger, meanwhile, was approximately league average, with exactly zero defensive runs saved. When his ability to frame pitches is brought into the equation, Conger actually saved the Angels 14.6 runs last year.
With the offense essentially being equal, it may actually behoove the Angels to start Hank Conger over Chris Iannetta. The Angels offense should produce quite well in 2014, particularly since Albert Pujols is finally healthy. Any additional offense that Iannetta may provide over Conger may not be worth enough to justify playing the worse defensive catcher.
Mike Scioscia has displayed a stubbornness when playing superior defensive catchers before. After all, Jeff Mathis would not have received that much playing time otherwise. With Chris Iannetta’s struggles defensively, the Angels may once again find themselves with that type of a platoon at catcher.