Angels Expectations by Position: Catcher

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Aug 23, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) slides against Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta (17) during the sixth inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Aside from second base, the Angels are confidently set with who will be starting at each position. Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be examining what kind of production we should expect from the each position and how the depth chart looks behind them. To begin we’ll examine the most demanding of positions, catcher.

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Catchers have the most physically and mentally taxing of positions. Aside from crouching for hours behind the plate and routinely getting beat-up by foul tipped balls, they have the responsibility to be involved with every pitch of the game and intelligently call pitches to fool batters. More so than any other player, except pitchers who only do it every five days, catchers have to study gobs scouting information in-between games. These demands add up over the course of a season and the days of seeing catchers be expected to start every game are over. A primary catcher and regular backup are needed on every team.

Chris Iannetta is the no doubt primary catcher this season for the Angels, just as he has been for the past three. He’s

Aug 7, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta (17) at bat in the fifth inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

been around for some time and we’ve been given a good basis for what to expect.

Last year he caught 108 games and saw 373 plate appearances. Those numbers are right in line with the year before and what should be expected for any primary backstop. Last season, Iannetta produced his second best offensive season ever. He hit .252 but did so with a career high BABIP of .329. His power numbers were down with only 7 HR but he’s not expected to produce much there. Iannetta’s trademark skill is his eye. He led all AL catchers last season with a .373 OBP and saw a terrific 4.01 pitchers per plate appearance.

On the defensive side, his throwing out would-be-base stealers was at a career best 30%. His career average is 25% and that puts him right at average as a catcher. One area he has never been very good at is in his pitch framing skills. This was his former partners (Hank Conger) area of expertise. Conger last season was rated at creating 2.21 extra strikes per game due to his framing. Iannetta would lose his pitchers 0.41 strikes. In one game, that may seem a small number but over the course of 100 games that’s 41 balls that should have been a strike. At some point that will create a hit or walk that hurts the team.

What to Expect

Iannetta is overall a good catcher. One we should be happy is part of the team. Given he’ll be turning 32 in April some regression could be in store but not too much. Steamer projects him to play in 105 games while seeing a decline in his batting average to .224 and an OBP of .339. The declines are mostly due to his high BABIP last year coming in line with his career number of .283. Given his age I have a hard time expecting more from him than that but don’t expect any less either.

On defense we’ll see a catcher who in most ways grades out at about average. Base runners can’t go wild on him but will nab their fair share of bags. And while it’s tougher to see from a fans perspective he will cost his pitchers some strikes. Returning Angels pitchers know Iannetta well and that comfort level will be nice to have given the backup position will go to unfamiliar faces.

Next: The Backups