Reviewing the 2015 AL East Projections: Catcher


Apr 14, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph (36) slides while New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann (34) cannot catch the ball in the seventh inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Catcher has been a position of strength in the American League East for several years now, however in 2015, names may have carried more weight than ability.

I am all about being accountable, and so it is time to review my preseason projections. I started the rankings at catcher, so that is the first place to review.

The way this will work is by showing the preseason rankings, discuss how I would rank the teams in the AL East by position in review, and then talk about what the future holds at the position for the Baltimore Orioles.


1. Baltimore Orioles – Matt Wieters, Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger, J.P. Arencibia, Ryan Lavarnway

2. New York Yankees – Brian McCann, Austin Romine, J.R. Murphy

3. Toronto Blue Jays – Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro, Josh Thole

4. Boston Red Sox – Ryan Hanigan, Christian Vasquez, Blake Swihart

5. Tampa Bay Rays – Rene Rivera, John Jaso, Curt Casali


1. Toronto Blue Jays – Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro, Josh Thole

I said that anyone could rank the top three in any order, and it would be hard to argue. I discussed that while Martin may have hit .290 in 2014, he wouldn’t do that again in the AL East. And he didn’t, hitting .240. But Martin also had 23 home runs, 23 doubles, 77 RBIs and threw out 44 percent of base runners. He was not as good as he was last year in Pittsburgh, but Martin is so much more than just a hitting catcher, and that is where his true value lies. He also was an All-Star at the catcher position.

One reader told me when my original rankings came out that the Jays should have easily been number one.  And while I didn’t agree, Martin definitely proved his worth this year.

I said that Navarro was probably the best backup catcher in the division, if he didn’t get traded. He didn’t get traded, and played in 54 games. Navarro hit .246 with only five home runs, and ended up with a 0.7 WAR. Navarro actually had his best caught stealing percentage of his career, at .39 percent.

Thole only played in 18 games, and continued to show he is more of a defensive reserve catcher, hitting .204.

All in all, a good year for the Jays’ catchers, which helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the division.

2. New York Yankees – Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy

The Yankees remain in the second spot at the end of the year rankings, with a good season from Brian McCann. McCann finished with a .232 average, coincidentally the exact same average he had for the Yankees in 2014. McCann also hit 26 home runs, drove in 94 runs, and had over 100 hits. It was another goof year for McCann, albeit a relatively quiet one.

McCann also had a great year defensively, making no errors and a caught stealing percentage of 36 percent. In fact, if you look at the numbers, McCann probably had a better season than Russell Martin did. But, it was the way that Martin handled a varied pitching staff in Toronto, and led them to a division championship, that sets him apart.

Murphy caught 43 games, and actually had decent numbers for the Yankees. He hit .277/.327/.406, showing that he had very little power and very few walks.

Overall, a pretty good year for the Yankees’ catchers.

3. Baltimore Orioles – Caleb Joseph, Matt Wieters, Ryan Lavarnway, Steve Clevenger

The main catcher for the O’s was actually Caleb Joseph, who appeared in 100 games for the Orioles, catching in 94 of those games. If Joseph was in the game, he was likely behind the plate. And the Orioles actually won more games with Joseph behind the plate than Wieters. He threw out 33 percent of base runners, and had a .996 fielding percentage, very good for a catcher.

His bat was a major improvement from 2015, at least as far as average, bumping from .207 to .234. He only had 11 home runs and 75 hits, but his true value, much like Martin, is in what he does with the pitchers.

Matt Wieters had the best batting average for catchers in the AL East, hitting at .267 clip. He didn’t appear in half of the team’s games, however. Wieters only hit eight home runs, a sub par number power-wise even with all of the missed time. Wieters was also outplayed by Joseph, and struggled compared to his standards behind the plate as well, with a fielding percentage of .989 and throwing out 31 percent of runners.

Clevenger only caught six full games for the Orioles, most coming in August and September. The Lavarnway experiment was a disaster, as he couldn’t hit, struggled to control the pitchers, and also struggled behind the plate.

4. Boston Red Sox – Blake Swihart, Ryan Hanigan, Sandy Leon

The Red Sox will stay at 4th, mainly because injuries derailed what could have been. Heralded prospect Christian Vasquez didn’t play a game in Boston, or anywhere else, in 2015.  He had Tommy John surgery, and missed the entire season. Vasquez would have been the starter, had he not being injured.

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Swihart was the primary catcher, but he only caught a few more than half of the team’s games (84) due to injury as well. Leon was signed just before the season began, while Hanigan was a veteran backup for the team.  Together they combined for seven home runs, 50 RBIs and 83 runs.  Leon hit a paltry .184, but Swihart did quite well, hitting .274.

The Red Sox catchers each held their own behind the plate, with Leon throwing out 10 of the 20 runners who tried to steal on him. As Oriole fans are well aware of, the Red Sox may need to lean on Swihart well into 2016 as well, until Vasquez is ready to return to the major leagues.

5. Tampa Bay Rays – Rene Rivera, Curt Casali, Bobby Wilson, J.P. Arencibia, Luke Maile

I said before the season that if you thought Rivera would hit over .250 again in 2015 in the AL East, well it wasn’t going to happen. And John Jaso, who I had as the backup catcher, didn’t play a game at catcher.

Well, Rivera hit under .200 in 90 games started, and the Rays used five different people at the catcher position.

Rivera again had a great year behind the plate, working well with the Rays’ pitching staff. But on a team so starved for offense, they got next to nothing from Rivera. And that helps put the Rays at the bottom of my end of the season rankings.

As for 2016 for the Baltimore Orioles, catcher is one of the positions with question marks. Will Matt Wieters be back? In my opinion, probably not. As the numbers show, he is somewhat expendable, at least compared to other needs the Orioles have.  I think Caleb Joseph will be the starting catcher next season, with Steve Clevenger and a veteran who is brought in for a low contract competing for the backup spot in spring training.

Next: Former Orioles in the Playoffs