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Diamondbacks Off-Season Recap: Catching | January
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Continuing our look at the Diamondbacks' off-season, let's examine the team's catching situation. Miguel Montero will be the starter behind the plate, and veteran Henry Blanco has been signed to be the team's backup catcher.  Also on the Diamondbacks' 40-Man roster are catchers John Hester and Konrad Schmidt, a pair of right-handed batters who will probably start the season battling for playing time at AAA Reno. Here is a closer look at these four players.


Catchers
Miguel Montero, C (27) - LHB

Year AB R H HR RBI SB CS AVG OBP SLG BB K
2007 214 30 48 10 37 0 0 .224 .292 .397 20 35
2008 184 24 47 5 18 0 0 .255 .330 .435 19 49
2009 425 61 125 16 59 1 2 .294 .355 .478 38 78
2010 297 36 79 9 43 0 1 .266 .332 .438 29 71

Montero suffered a knee injury early in 2010 and never was able to return to his excellent offensive levels of 2009. A closer look at Montero's numbers show that his performance vs. RHP stayed about the same, but his hitting against LHP took a big drop.

Year Split PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB K BABIP
2009 vs. RHP 382 .286 .354 .475 13 35 65 .320
2010 vs. RHP 240 .286 .350 .461 7 22 49 .340
Year Split PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB K BABIP
2009 vs. LHP 88 .329 .356 .488 3 3 13 .358
2010 vs. LHP 91 .213 .286 .375 2 7 22 .259

Clearly, the sample size against LHP is small for both seasons, but the batting average (and the Batting Average on Balls in Play) showed a big drop in 2010. Another aspect of Montero's batting that changed from 2009 to 2010 was Montero's fly-ball rate. A closer look shows that 2009 appears to be the anomaly - Montero's ground ball rates have been between 36-38% for each season except 2009, when it jumped to 43.9%.

Year Line Drive % Ground Ball% Fly Ball%
2007 14.2 38.8 47.0
2008 22.2 36.3 41.5
2009 19.7 43.9 36.4
2010 19.2 37.6 43.2

Defensively, Montero improved his throwing in 2010,  increasing his CS% rate from 25.5% in 2009 up to 30.8% last season. The other aspects of his defensive game are rated about average, as the Fans' Scouting Report gave him an overall grade of 46 (50 = Average).

Montero should be the regular catcher in 2011, although an OPS in the .780-.790 range may be more realistic than the .832 of 2009.  Montero's at bats against LHP should be limited again in 2011, due to the presence of the right-handed batting Henry Blanco.


Henry Blanco, C (39) - RHB

Year AB R H HR RBI SB CS AVG OBP SLG BB K
2006 241 23 64 6 37 0 0 .266 .304 .419 14 38
2007 54 3 9 0 4 0 0 .167 .193 .222 2 12
2008 120 15 35 3 12 0 0 .292 .325 .392 6 22
2009 204 21 48 6 16 0 0 .235 .320 .382 26 50
2010 130 10 28 2 8 1 0 .215 .271 .300 11 26

Blanco was signed to a $1.25M contract for 2011 after spending the 2010 season with the Mets. Blanco has never been a good offensive player, but has always been known for his defense. In particular, Blanco has always been excellent at stopping the running game, with a career CS rate of 42.9%. While his offense showed signs of slumping last year, Blanco was outstanding behind the plate, throwing out 11 of 22 base stealers (50%). In addition to throwing out runners, Blanco is also highly regarded in other areas of catcher's defense such as hands, blocking the plate, and footwork. FanGraphs has him rated as a positive defensive catcher in 10 of his 12 major league seasons, and the Fans' Scouting Report has always rated him well above average.

Offensively, Blanco has historically been better against left-handed pitching, with a lifetime .721 OPS against LHP compared to a .627 OPS against RHP. Unfortunately in 2010, he only had 42 ABs against LHP, and managed only a .451 OPS.  To be a useful backup catcher, he needs to hit better in 2011. Since his offense has always been mediocre, Blanco must be above average defensively - if his defense deteriorates significantly, his major league career will be over, and either Hester or Schmidt could get a chance.

John Hester, C (27) - RHB

Year AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BB K
2009-AAA 329 61 108 9 66 .328 .375 .535 22 65
2009 28 4 7 1 4 .250 .300 .429 2 7
2010-AAA 138 34 51 7 29 .370 .440 .667 16 26
2010 95 9 20 2 7 .211 .292 .347 11 32

Hester had some opportunities with the Diamondbacks after the trade of Chris Snyder, but didn't do much to distinguish himself. He has hit well at AAA Reno, but didn't show enough in Arizona to earn the backup job in 2011. Even when he has hit well in the minors, the strikeout to walk ratios have never been very good (78K/16BB in AA 2008, 65K/22BB in AAA 2009). At age 27, he is in danger of being passed on the depth chart by Konrad Schmidt.

Konrad Schmidt, C (26) - RHB

Year AB R H HR RBI AVG OBP SLG BB K
2009(A,AAA) 427 55 132 9 54 .309 .362 .447 30 76
2010 (AA) 394 48 124 11 65 .315 .373 .490 32 63

Schmidt followed up a solid AA season with an invitation to the Arizona Fall League, where unfortunately he suffered a tear in his left labrum after one game.  Although he was unable to play in the remainder of the AFL season, the injury is not believed to be serious, and Schmidt is expected to be healthy for the 2011 season. Already 26, Schmidt is a little too old to be considered a great prospect, but he is considered solid on defense and good enough offensively to be a useful backup at the major league level. If he's healthy, he should get the bulk of the AAA at bats at catcher. And if there is an injury to Montero, there is a good chance that the team would turn to the AAA catcher rather than the 39 year old Henry Blanco.