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SnakePit Round Table: 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks Catcher Preview

As players start to report at Salt River Fields, it's time to go into full-on preview mode! We start with the position of the man in the mask...

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Here are the projections for Welington Castillo. Which do you think will be most accurate?
  • Steamer: 366 PA, .243/.306/.410, .716 OPS, 13 HR, 1.5 fWAR
  • ZIPS: 393 PA, .249/.314/.418, .732 OPS, 14 HR, 1.7 fWAR
  • PECOTA: 516 PA, .248/.316/.416, .732 OPS, 18 HR, -0.7 WARP

Piratedan7: I'll go with Steamer simply because I can and no one else is influencing me. I think Castillo went into last year as a backup who ended up being the man. Will that affect his preparation for this year? I'd like to think so, yet, we really had no one behind him after playing four months essentially non-stop. If there aren't any unexpected happenings over Spring Training, I think we're in better shape if Mr. Gosewich can indeed be his backup.

Makakilo: ZIPS will be the most accurate.

  • I cannot abide by the huge drop in SLG predicted by Steamer because Castillo at age 28 is not in decline and he is younger than average for a NL starting catcher. Baseball Reference lists 15 starting NL catchers; median age was 28.5 years and average age was 29.5 years.

  • I cannot accept PECOTA because it assumes Castillo has 35% more plate appearances than 2015. Chip Hale will want to avoid overworking Castillo.

  • Looking at ZIPS, the drop in SLG is smaller than Steamer, and BA and OBP look like good predictions.

freeland1787: Steamer and ZIPS are better portrayals, although I do think his SLG will outperform both predictions.

Xipooo: I'm thinking PECOTA's figures are more accurate for the type of player I think he is, but his plate appearances is way too high.

Steven: I think he'll have more power than what is shown but PECOTA seems the closest to his BA and OBP.

Jim: I think it's interesting how ZIPS and PECOTA end up with the same OPS - yet radically different opinions on his overall value. Is that all on defense? I can understand it being a knock on Castillo; the pitch-framing numbers in particular appearing to indicate an issue. Hard to imagine him being so bad as to be worse than replacement. In terms of overall value, Steamer and ZIPS both seem about right.

Preston: Castillo has played more than 60 games in three seasons. In those three seasons, he's posted no worse than 1.3 fWAR, and that was last year. So I'll go with ZIPS. His OBP and SLG might not be that high, but I think that has him the closest to what he does, as I think he gets closer to 20 home runs and posts closer to 2 WAR.

Castillo wore down badly, hitting .189/.221/.311 in September. Are you worried about his ability to play a full season for us?

Piratedan7: Not really, I do not think he expected to be an everyday backstop and I think that this year. he'll have a mindset that is more in tuned with what the team expectations are. Last year, he was released from the backup backstop brig, it's different being "the man" plus, he has guys like Grienke and Miller to get in tune with and a chance to play on a contender. I expect most of the guys to be ready and hungry to seize the opportunity

Makakilo: No. To keep Welington Castillo playing his best the entire season plus the post-season, I predict that Chip Hale will give Castillo regular days off that will result in regular season plate appearances totaling about 420, which is 10% more than 2015.

freeland1787: I believe that will be the starting C on the team, but I disagree with the notion he can't play a full season for the team. Over 162 games, assuming a Castillo-Gosewisch/Hermann combination at catcher, I expect Castillo to start 100-110 games and hopefully no more. Dbacks ran Montero into the ground when he was playing at an All-Star Level in 2011-2012.

Xipooo: Yes........ oh, you want an explanation why? I think the answer is in the question.

Steven: It all depends on who is his backup. If it's Tuffy, he'll definitely be given ample rest and shouldn't break down over the course of the year. If it's Hermann, I think we'll have an injury risk at our hands with how much we'll depend on Castillo.

Jim: There's some evidence to support that. He started 16 games in June and July, then 21 in August and 19 in September; that may be a bit much. There were only a couple of catchers who started more than 125 games last year. Indeed, only nine reached even 105, so Beef's later pace was definitely above average. Castillo's career high for a year is 107, so something in line would perhaps be better this year.

Preston: I'm not too concerned by that. He had really bad BABIP luck (.203) and still had some power (2 home runs in 77 plate appearances.) That's not too far away from his career power (1 HR every 31 plate appearances) although it was a drop-off from before. Both his offensive struggles before joining the D-backs last year and at the end of the year can be attributed to BABIP. Especially when you consider that he struck out in 16.9% of plate appearances in September and October, versus 24.4% for his career, and it doesn't worry me.

Does Castillo's generally regarded lack of defensive prowess bother you?

Piratedan7: With the guys pitching now, not so much, they don't walk to many guys, so I don't expect the run game against us to be as much of a factor.

Makakilo: Less so than last year, because A) our pitchers are better - less walks per Piratedan's comment, and less hits too, B) I predict that each year the umpires will train themselves to be less influenced by pitch framing, C) Welington Castillo can be given adequate rest because Chris Herrmann is a good backup catcher, and D) my expectations are more aligned with his capabilities.

freeland1787: The catcher's primary job is to work with his pitcher. If his game-calling and his bat exceeds his defensive liabilities (he's just a tick below average in that department), then there's nothing to worry about.

Xipooo: I think he does alright behind the plate as far as blocking pitches, but my concern is how he and the new pitching staff will sync up on what pitch to throw. That chemistry can be a big difference between a winning season and an average to bad season.

Steven: Yeah it really does, especially after signing Greinke who had pitched to an excellent catcher in Grandal and to a lesser extent A.J Ellis. I don't expect much help from him behind the dish.

Jim: It's always hard to quantify this. But last year, our pitchers throwing to Tuffy had a 3.90 ERA, compared to 4.10 for Castillo. And that's Tuffy getting only one start with Ray and none with Corbin, the two best starters on our staff. That seems non-trivial, and with comments already this spring about how our pitchers "love" throwing to Tuffy, can we take it as meaning that they don't love throwing to Castillo? Hopefully it's an area where Welington is open to learning from his colleague, and taking on board some of the reasons for that love.

Preston: How bad is Castillo defensively? Not really very bad. By metrics, his defense is a positive by most and average by others. The problem is that the metrics don't really agree with the results, outlined above. Castillo was fine at blocking pitches and throwing out runners, things which are fairly easy to quantify. Where he struggled was with the finer aspects of receiving, such as pitch framing. But catcher has to be one of the most difficult positions to join a team midseason and do well, so we'll see what he does with the benefit of a spring.

Tuffy Gosewisch says he's 100% healthy again. So who should be the backup for Castillo? Him, Oscar Hernandez or Chris Herrmann, and why?

Piratedan7: Unless one of the other guys has an incredible spring, I think the job is Tuffy's to lose.

Makakilo: Chris Herrmann should be the backup catcher based on the following.

  • Best skill and development potential:
  • Offense. Chris Herrmann showed the most potential for improvement based on his great AAA hitting (wRC+ 110-138) and his 2013 majors hitting was better than last year's hitting.
  • Defense. In 2015, Chris Herrmann had the best fielding percentages on remote and unlikely plays, which shows defensive skill.

    Inside Edge Fielding 2015

    remote plays made

    unlikely plays made

    Chris Herrmann

    33.3% (6 plays)

    57.1%(7 plays)

    Tuffy Gosewisch

    0%(5 plays)

    33.3%(15 plays)

    Oscar Hernandez

    0%(1 play)

    100%(1 play)

  • Age. Chris Herrmann and Oscar Hernandez are young enough that they can bounce back from injury and I expect further development. Although Oscar Hernandez at age 22 is very young (a big plus), Chris Herrmann at age 28 is younger than average for starting NL catchers (a plus). Gosewisch is older at age 32.
  • Experience. With 142 games & 389 PAs in the majors, Chris Herrmann generally meets my benchmark for minimum experience (although he is short in plate appearances) . With 93 games & 317 PAs in the majors, Tuffy Gosewisch meets my lesser benchmark for marginal experience. With 18 games & 36 PAs, Oscar Hernandez meets neither benchmark. My benchmarks were based on two NL catchers: Realmuto (minimum experience with 137 games & 497 PAs), and Plawecki (marginal experience with 73 games & 258 PAs).
  • Out of Options. Chris Herrmann is out of options. Except for injury, he must stay on the 40-man roster or Diamondbacks risk losing him.

freeland1787: Whoever hits better. Hermann is definitely an interesting choice and the Dbacks gave up a C+ prospect in Daniel Palka for him so they probably have plans for him. Tuffy is a proven replacement level player and could fill in when an injury strikes. In a tie, I'd go with Hermann because he bats left-handed and could match-up against tough RHPs late. If Hermann can play multiple positions other than catcher, conceivably both him and Tuffy could fit on the 25-man roster. Tuffy has all 3 option years left.

Xipooo: I like Tuffy a lot, and his defensive skills are unmatched. I don't think he proved to be all that terrible at bat either and would continue to get better with a full season at the major league level. That being said, I'm always open to someone being a better option. That seems to be Herrmann for his offensive numbers, I'm just not sure if his defense stacks up since I haven't seen him play.

Steven: I think Tuffy is the best of the bunch, but that doesn't give me much confidence in his ability to rebound as quick as he has. He's 32, coming off a knee injury and was already a terrible option as a hitter. I'm shocked they didn't go after someone more experienced behind the plate.

Jim: I can see the case for both all three of them. The former's defensive skill-set would seem to mesh better with Castillo's offense-driven one and, as noted above, might help rub off on Beef. But Herrmann probably has a bit more upside, and can at least SOMEWHAT hit - being a left-handed batter certainly helps - while Hernandez, obviously, is almost entirely upside. I can't say I'd be deliriously happy about any of them, but on the other hand, I'm not going to be too upset by any of them either. In Chip we trust...

Preston: At the moment, I'll say Tuffy. His recovery to this point has been borderline incredible, and he seems to be a full participant in drills. Herrmann, though, has a leg up because of being a left handed hitter. Both Herrmann and Gosewisch look like replacement-level players, though. I'd say that if Hernandez shows in the spring that he can do it, give him the job, because he's the only one of the three that might be more than a replacement level backup. But I'd still argue that Tuffy has the best chance.

How do you want to see the catching duties split up?

Piratedan7: I see Gosewisch catching the #3 or the #5 starter during the usual rotation starts. Maybe both on long road trips.

Makakilo: To keep Welington Castillo playing his best the entire season plus the post-season, I predict that Chip Hale will start Chris Herrmann every fourth game, perhaps using Welington Castillo in late innings as pinch hitter if appropriate for the situation.

freeland1787: I would go on the comfort level of the pitcher in addition to previous matchups in determining which catcher plays. Castillo would catch on days Rubby De La Rosa and Robbie Ray pitches due to past familiarity. I would assume Zack Greinke will tell Hale which catcher he likes most since Greinke is OCD (in fairness, most baseball players are that way) about the little things such as who's catching him. I believe Castillo will be working with Greinke because that's been the pairing so far in bullpen sessions.

Xipooo: 80/20. I want to make sure Castillo gets some good rest. IIRC he had some back issues towards the end of the season and I'd like to make sure the full season doesn't wear him down too quickly. One game per week off would be good I think.

Steven: I'd give Castillo as much as he can handle, probably 4 or 5 starts a week, with the backup grabbing the rest of the starts.

Jim: It might make sense to let the veteran pitchers, e.g. Greinke, Corbin and Miller, go with Castillo, and let them call their own shots, while having Gosewisch take the reins for De La Rosa and Ray/Bradley, and select pitches for them. Especially if we have a specific plan of attack for Rubby, I think a good defensive catcher to run things for him becomes more important. If we're looking at Castillo starting 110 games or thereabouts, that would work out to a couple of starts a week for his backup.

Preston: Basically, I look for the team to have three catchers, even though it's likely only two will be on the roster at a time. One will jump from Reno to Phoenix as needed. So look for Castillo to start 90-100 games, the main backup to start 35-40 games, and the secondary backup to start most of the remainder, with the possibility for a fourth catcher in September if the team isn't contending or has the postseason locked up.