Potential Players of Interest: Questioned Catchers | The Process Report

Potential Players of Interest: Questioned Catchers

On Tuesday, we examined two potential catching options. Today let’s cover three other free-agent possibilities.

Geovany Soto spent the season as a backup with the Rangers. When Soto played he performed well, particularly against left-handed pitching. The former Rookie of the Year winner has good pull-side power and an approach that leads to healthy walk rates. Working deep counts leads to strikeouts, and last season Soto fanned too much for comfort. His rates have been more reasonable in the past, but there’s no hiding his weakness against offspeed pitches.

Defensively, Soto is a mixed bag. He’s an okay receiver, though at times he’s too enthusiastic behind the plate and when dealing with his pitchers. Soto’s pop times are fine, yet his caught stealing rate generally toes the league-average line. It’s not because he lacks arm strength; rather, he has accuracy issues with his throws, including the occasional ugly throw to the shortstop side of the bag. He’ll celebrate his 31st birthday in January and should seek a larger role this winter.

Whereas Soto’s power is a carrying tool, Carlos Ruiz’s game is more well-rounded. The Panama native is set to play next season at age 35, and he’s coming off a tumultuous campaign. Ruiz missed the start of the year while serving an amphetamines-triggered suspension. He returned and posted almost identical batting average and on-base percentage figures over the two halves, yet his power didn’t come around until late in the year—and even then it was contained to August.

When Ruiz is right, his offensive value centers on making contact and reaching base. His walk rates have fallen in recent years, however, a tendency to get hit by pitches has helped buoy his on-base rate. Ruiz’s best defensive attribute is his staff-handling, which drew constant praise during the Phillies’ glory days. The other defensive aspects aren’t poor by any means, but they lack the elite feel.

Ruiz will have to deal with teams wondering if he’s too old to be counted upon, meanwhile, Dioner Navarro is set to face questioning over his maturity. Navarro of course spent parts of five seasons with the Rays, but his term ended on a sour note when he abandoned the team following his exclusion from the postseason roster. As the Rays showed with Delmon Young, they’re willing to give players second chances if they can help the team win ballgames. Navarro might be a similar class if the Rays believe his talent level has changed.

The Navarro of the past two seasons hasn’t been the same Navarro that failed his way out of town anyway. Back then, the former top prospect relied on batting average and on-base percentage to make up for a lack of power. In an admittedly small sample over the past two seasons, Navarro has hit .298/.352/.482 with 15 home runs. He’s seemingly tweaked his swing, though he remains a better hitter from the right side. Navarro is one of the younger free-agent catchers available, so it’s possible a team that believes in his recent breakout takes him off the board for more than the Rays are willing to commit.

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