Catching depth is needed in Spring Training to accommodate the proportionally large pitching depth that travels to Clearwater. The Phillies currently have three catchers on their 40-man roster, Erik Kratz, Carlos Ruiz, and Sebastian Valle, but with Chooch out, Valle will compete with the three non-rostered invitees for an early season cameo as the Phils back-up catcher. Of all of the non-roster invitees, this is the group that is all but guaranteed to produce a Phillie in 2013.
The Front Runner
Quintero is primarily the front runner for the early season back-up catching role due to the amount of experience he has in the big leagues. Quintero has almost no bat (career .234/.267/.323) and despite the fact that he was on the 2004 Padres with Jake Peavy in his prime and the 2005 Astros with Roy Oswalt in his prime and Roger Clemens putting up a league-leading 1.87 ERA, Quintero didn’t catch those guys. He often served as Wandy Rodriguez‘s personal catcher much in the same way Brian Schneider was accidentally-on-purpose Vance Worley‘s personal catcher throughout 2011.
This is not to say Quintero does not have positives: Quintero is a fine defensive catcher via the eye test and UZR says he has saved 26.2 runs over the course of his career. As much as it would be fun if this were a race for a roster spot, this is Quintero’s spot to lose. Valle would benefit from playing every day more in Lehigh Valley than playing once every five days in Philadelphia.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: A. Quintero will very likely be Kratz’s back-up until Chooch returns. In terms of back-up catchers, you could do worse.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: A+. In fact, look for Quintero to start the home opener on April 5, which is the first Phillies’ day game after a night game.
Last Year’s Emergency Catcher
Lerud came into last year’s camp with a career .193/.268/.303 Minor League line and no Major League experience. He ended the year with a late season cameo. I remarked in last year’s preview: “Because of the odd nature, and frequency, of catcher injuries, and the fact that the Phillies have been perfectly comfortable using Dane Sardinha in the past, I’m leaving the door just a little cracked open for Lerud.”
The same applies this year – Lerud is as good defensively as Quintero and that’s pretty much what you look for in a back-up catcher. More importantly, he is the kind of guy you can add to your 40-man roster and not worry that another team will put a waiver claim on him when you send him back down. Lerud could start the year at any level, Reading and up, and it would not surprise me. While Quintero has the inside track to win the temporary back-up job out of camp, if Quintero comes to camp out of shape or faces an injury, Lerud could start the year with the Phils.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: D+. Lerud’s odds went from “None” to “D+”. While semantically, that isn’t a huge leap, it certainly feels like it. With the right set of circumstances, Lerud could be on the Phils’ Opening Day roster.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: C-. The math gets tough once Chooch gets back and the Phillies have three catchers and a few prospects who can play, but in a pinch, Lerud is good for a call-up and can clear waivers. The Phillies have gone at least four catchers deep every year since 2007 so don’t be surprised if Lerud is catcher number four in 2013.
The Wild Card
Joseph, just 21 years old, was the center piece of the Hunter Pence deal. Scouts struggle to place Joseph as a catcher or as a first baseman long term and are now unsure if his once sure-fire power is real (16 HR in 2010, 22 in 2011, and just 11 in 2012). His plate discipline made just about an equal adjustment for better and worse in 2012 (improved BB%, worsened K%) while behind the plate, he remained solid (40% caught stealing would have been fourth in all of the Major Leagues last year).
Joseph is clearly the Phillies long term plan at catcher, both because of his talent and by default. It will be tough to resist the temptation to rush him to the Majors if he has a hot season in Reading and/or Lehigh Valley and if both Chooch and Kratz come back down to Earth in what could be a lost season. I just don’t see the Phillies pulling the trigger this year, though, unless it is a late September call-up. It won’t be talent that keeps Joseph off the Phillies in 2013 – he just has too many other catchers ahead of him and too big an opportunity to spend the year developing in Reading and Lehigh Valley.
Chances of Making Phils out of Spring Training: F-. Strange things happen with catchers. While it should be near impossible that Joseph makes the team out of camp, and it is, he is two injuries away from starting the year with the Phillies. I want to close this one shut, but it really is hard to count any of the catchers out.
Chances of Seeing Time with Phils in 2013: F. If it is going to happen, it will likely happen in September. Valle and Lerud will likely get the emergency calls and since Joseph is not on the 40-man roster, and essentially doesn’t need to be for the next three seasons, they will take their time before adding him. The time will need to be right.