What will Chris Iannetta bring to the Angels in 2015?


2015 will be the fourth season for Chris Iannetta in an Angels’ uniform. The Halos acquired the veteran backstop from the Colorado Rockies prior to the start of the 2012 season. While Iannetta has not been flashy in his three seasons in Anaheim, he has been a steadying force for the Angels’ pitching staff.

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This past season was the 31-year-old catcher’s best season since joining the Angels. Iannetta hit .252, with 7 home runs and 43 RBI’s across 108 games in 2014. His defensive numbers were drastically improved as well, posting a .997 fielding percentage and throwing out 30% of base stealers. Iannetta is entering the final year of his contract, so 2015 will be a very important season for the Providence, RI product.

Reasons for Optimism:

Chris Iannetta has put together a solid nine-year career. The former fourth round selection of the Colorado Rockies has posted a career .236 average, 90 home runs and 344 runs batted in. Iannetta spent the first six years of his career playing 81 games per season in the hitters’ paradise known as Coors Field. Obviously his numbers early in his career are slightly inflated, but his production has been nearly as impressive since exiting the thin air of Denver, CO. His .373 on base percentage was his best mark since 2008, and his .765 OPS was his highest since joining the Angels.

Defensively, 2014 was Chris Iannetta’s best as a member of the Halos. This past season the North Carolina alum shined with the leather, posting his best fielding percentage since 2011 and the second highest mark of his career. His 30% caught stealing percentage last year tied his career high and was a vast improvement from the 19% the recorded in 2013. The 31-year-old’s 8.40 range factor per 9 innings set a new career high and demolished the league average of 8.24.

Aug 1, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta (17) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Los Angeles Angels defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Reasons to Panic:

Chris Iannetta is far and away the best catcher on the Angels’ roster, but he is nowhere close to the best backstop in the American League. He is unlikely to challenge for a spot on the All Star team any time soon, and nothing about his game catches your eye. Some would argue he is the third best catcher in the American League West behind Mike Zunino and Jason Castro. Iannetta will be 32-years-old in early April. Catchers typically do not age gracefully, and after over 6000 career innings behind the plate, it is fair to question how much Iannetta has left in the tank.

2014 was one of the best all around seasons of Chris Iannetta’s career. He came close to or surpassed many of career highs last season in the big A. His .252 batting average was his highest since 2008. His .373 on base percentage was his best since 2008. Iannetta’s 30% caught stealing percentage crushed his career average of 25%. He has struggled to stay on the field throughout his career, and in 2014 he eclipsed the 100 game threshold for just the fourth time in his nine-year career. Some regression should be expected this season, but how far he tumbles could dictate his future with the organization.

What to Expect in 2015:

The brainiacs over at FanGraphs.com have projected Chris Iannetta will hit .224 with 10 home runs and 40 RBI’s across 105 games in 2015. They expect Iannetta to record an OBP of .339 and a slugging percentage of .358. These numbers are a little conservative, but most Angels’ fans would be happy if Iannetta sacrificed his average for more power this season.

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Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reported recently that the Angels are interested in locking up Chris Iannetta. General Manager Jerry Dipoto will meet with Iannetta’s representation this spring in Tempe to discuss a potential contract extension. Based on the subpar class of free agent catchers expected in 2015 and the dearth of quality in house replacements, it makes sense to sign Iannetta to a short-term extension. Iannetta has been a productive player for the Angels over the past three seasons, and a one year contract worth $5-$6 million would make sense.

While Chris Iannetta may not possess the jaw dropping power of Mike Zunino, or the All Star credentials of Jason Castro, I believe Iannetta is the best all around catcher in the American League West. His 2.1 WAR was the highest among the current crop of AL West backstops, and his combination of offense and defense is unmatched. Iannetta worked wonders with the Angels’ pitching staff in 2014, and he figures to play an even more important role with the Halos’ young hurlers in 2015.

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