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Not just lottery tickets: Athletics catchers

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Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2012, the Oakland Athletics filled the batting order not with players it drafted, but players it acquired in trade, as castoffs from other organizations, or occasionally as a free agent. In 2012, of the 1,440 regular season starts available to non-pitchers in an American League batting order, only 220 (15%) were made by players drafted by the Oakland Athletics: Kurt Suzuki (72 starts), Anthony Recker (10), Jemile Weeks (112), and Cliff Pennington (26). The 2013 team say only 17 homegrown starts by non-pitchers out of 1,438 starts (1%): Kurt Suzuki (9), Grant Green (5), and Michael Choice (3). The 2014 team featured zero homegrown non-pitcher starts.

This could be grounds for criticism that the Oakland front office does not draft particularly well. However, in a September 30 article by Joe Lemire of the Wall Street Journal interviewing Billy Beane, Lemire notes that the draft is not a great way for the A's to improve:

Incidentally, the perks of finishing with a poor record-better draft position and more bonus money to spend on amateurs-may be less important to the A's than others. What they value in the draft is sometimes unconventional and out of the typical draft order anyway, plus they aren't looking to spend extra money.

("Billy Beane Finds New Moneyball Inefficiency", Wall Street Journal, Sept. 30, 2014)

It's a simple idea really. Given the bonuses that the best players in the draft demand, and the uncertainty that those players will pan out, the A's have to draft the less expensive players, and those players rise to the MLB level less frequently than the highly touted prospects. However, even with the imposition of slot money penalties to keep first-year draftee bonus demands down, the A's cannot afford draft busts like the $5.3 million bonus given in 2000 to Joe Borchard of the Chicago White Sox. Who? Exactly.

And so the A's turned to two paths from 2012 and on. One was to acquire players whose organizations did not seem to appreciate the skills they had, such as John Jaso, Brandon Moss, Jed Lowrie, Josh Reddick, Seth Smith, Jonny Gomes, and Craig Gentry. The other was to extract minor league players that either were widely seen as top quality (e.g. Derek Norris) or who had only been given the most limited chances to perform at the Major League level (e.g. Stephen Vogt).

I realize this is hardly groundbreaking, but there is a perception that Billy Beane does these player acquisitions better than others. One thing to remember, however, that the names in the previous paragraph are just the ones that worked out. The last few years are filled with player acquisitions that did not or have not yet paid off at the Big League level, but are necessary to find the few players that will rise up.

You might call them lottery tickets, but that is too simple, as Beane explained to Lemire, "I don't think it would be accurate to say, 'Hey, these guys are all just lottery tickets.' In many cases, their performance and what they're doing-as many times as they've been seen-they're not as risky as maybe they were thought to be." So what did Billy Beane see, and what became of those who have not risen up to play at the Coliseum?

The last 3 years of acquisitions and their stories

Baseball Prospectus has, behind its paywall, a way to split the advanced statistics on its website into batter handedness and into major or minor league level and rank the players according to whatever chosen statistics. Baseball Prospectus has a statistic similar to wOBA, called "True Average" or "TAv," which is scaled to batting average rather than on base percentage. Mark L. Smith of Talking Chop explains:

It is Baseball Prospectus' offensive metric. Like wOBA, TAv is a scaled metric, but instead of scaling it to look like OBP, it is scaled to look like BA. There are, however, some key differences:

  • It doesn't need a "+" metric because it's already scaled to league, park, and era. A .270 TAv in 2013 is the same as a .270 TAv in 1999. .260 is good, .300 very good, and anything above .330 is elite.
  • It's also a bit like SIERA in that it's a bit more complicated than its FanGraphs counterpart. All outs and bunts aren't equal, and strikeouts, for example, is a slightly more damaging out than a normal out. I believe it also accounts for double plays hit into.
Which is better? Again, TAv is likely better. It takes more into account - strikeouts and hitting into double plays are more damaging than other outs. But yet again, the difference between it and wOBA probably isn't great[.]

("Braving New Territory: wOBAddy, How Does It wRC?" Nov. 23, 2013)

Baseball Prospectus considers a .230 TAv to approximately represent replacement level.

What I have done is taken each non-pitcher the Athletics signed or traded for since November 2011 and will give you their TAv broken down into year, handedness, and classification (MLB, Triple-A, etc.), providing only those lines where a player acquired at least 100 plate appearances. I will also provide where that TAv ranks among those with at least 75 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, and 150 plate appearances against right-handed pitching, or where their TAv would have ranked if they qualified, and compare it against that season's .260 TAv.

Catcher

At the end of 2011, the bat at the catcher position leaved quite a lot to be desired. Kurt Suzuki played 134 games to a .237/.301/.385 line. His primary backup was the 29-year-old Landon Powell, who played in 36 games. Further down the depth chart was Anthony Recker, followed by a guy with some pop in his bat who was given some chances at third base that year, Josh Donaldson. A looming case of "I don't know's on third" was going to move Donaldson to third base permanently in 2012, though he did catch 22 games behind the plate with the River Cats that year.

Derek Norris (December 23, 2011)

Gio Gonzalez and minor league starting pitcher Robert Gilliam were shipped out of the organization after five consecutive seasons without a postseason appearance, prompting Jonah Keri to write:

The A's have a bunch of cruddy players because management didn't do a good enough job of getting non-cruddy ones.

So stop telling us about your damn Window. It's an excuse to field terrible baseball teams and pocket tens of millions of dollars in revenue-sharing cash. Just once, it'd be great to hear the GM of a bad team drop the euphemisms. "I f[']d up, and my boss wants a new stadium so he can make lots of free money. These things are not related."

There. Much better.

(Grantland.com, "The Myth of the Small Market Window", January 10, 2012)

In exchange for Gonzalez and Gilliam, the A's picked up Derek Norris, A.J. Cole, Tommy Milone, and Brad Peacock. A.J. Cole was turned into John Jaso the next offseason, Tommy Milone turned into Sam Fuld at the 2014 trade deadline, and Brad Peacock was part of the deal that brought Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to Oakland in 2013.

Just what did the A's see in the one position player in the Gio Gonzalez trade?

RHB Derek Norris Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2011 22 AA .284 111 94 148 64% .324 312 12 195 6%
2010 21 A+ .347 114 11 106 10% .285 237 78 155 50%
2009 20 A .305 120 29 111 26% .352 409 6 191 3%
2008 19 A- .374 85 9 139 6% .317 209 7 85 8%

Look at that, a young player consistently hitting on both sides of the ball. And what has Derek Norris become?

RHB Derek Norris Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 25 MLB .322 173 41 170 24% .262 269 174 181 96%
2013 24 MLB .366 173 12 175 7% .191 135 337 190 177%
2012 23 MLB .232 93 241 165 146% .231 139 256 184 139%
2012 23 AAA .293 75 88 186 47% .272 171 133 180 74%

Until 2014, Norris did not handle Major League right-handed pitching very well. His first half this year against right-haned pitching was enough to land him a good .262 TAv against right-handed pitching for the season. In his full seasons against left-handed pitching, Norris has been a star. Amongst catchers with at least 75 plate appearances against left-handed pitching this year, Norris' .322 in 173 plate appearances trailed only Devin Mesoraco (.347 in 98 plate appearances) and Carlos Ruiz (.331 in 110 PA).

George Kottaras (July 28, 2012)

If you look at Norris' Major League debut in 2012, you will see that his rookie season did not go particularly well. He was, at the age of 23, the quintessential replacement player, and he needed to be replaced, at least for a little while. And so the A's sent Fautino De Los Santos to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for George Kottaras. De Los Santos never pitched another major league inning, getting waived the next offseason and picked up by the San Diego Padres, and then suspended for 50 games late in 2013 for his connections to the Biogenesis scandal while injured.

LHB George Kottaras Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2011 28 MLB .185 24 277 159 174% .284 99 91 190 48%
2011 28 AAA .353 35 7 155 5% .291 83 77 155 50%
2010 27 MLB .271 69 152 171 89% .270 181 144 188 77%
2009 26 MLB .161 22 283 168 168% .258 85 196 190 103%
2008 25 AAA .285 139 87 147 59% .276 325 129 190 68%
2007 24 AAA .275 83 108 143 76% .240 249 261 196 133%
2006 23 AAA .144 33 274 157 175% .245 84 256 183 140%
2006 23 AA .287 98 94 153 61% .307 249 42 175 24%

Kottaras really was here to let Derek Norris get more time in Triple-A after it became apparent he had come up too soon. At the time of the trade in 2012, Kottaras was showing plate discipline with 29 walks in 116 plate appearances leading to a .209/.409/.360 line, making him good to have around against right-handed pitching when Kurt Suzuki needed a spell from behind the plate.

LHB George Kottaras Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2013 30 MLB .261 20 168 175 96% .265 106 173 190 96%
2012 29 MLB .283 36 108 165 65% .274 173 136 184 65%

The A's only held on to Kottaras for 2012, waiving him after trading for a better left-handed batting catcher, John Jaso, the following January. Kottaras played for the Kansas City Royals in 2013, and bounced around the major and minor leagues in 2014, picking up only 134 plate appearances at any level of professional baseball the entire season.

David Freitas (August 3, 2012)

As it turns out, Derek Norris was not long for the Sacramento River Cats. Just days after being sent there in the wake of acquiring George Kottaras, Norris was back when the A's sent Kurt Suzuki and his $5,000,000 and rising salary to the Washington Nationals in exchange for 24-year-old David Freitas.

RHB David Freitas Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2012 23 A+ .253 58 162 146 111% .281 263 117 187 63%
2011 22 A .265 143 118 128 92% .300 373 50 183 27%

Freitas arrived with the potential to likely be a major league backup, but the Elk Grove High School alum could now catch with his favorite team, telling the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, "I've been an A's fan my whole life.... The Bash Brothers, that's who my little brother and I wanted to be. When I got traded, my mom loved it, because at heart, we're all A's fans." (SFGate.com, "A's catcher David Freitas progressing", February 27, 2013).

RHB David Freitas Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 25 AA .298 63 64 139 46% .255 127 201 179 112%
2013 24 AAA .394 25 2 141 1% .247 85 247 188 131%
2013 24 AA .177 42 233 128 182% .225 204 282 171 165%

Freitas spent early 2013 in Double-A before getting advanced to Triple-A in late July in the midst of the 2013 version of Oakland's "We seem to be running out of healthy catchers" crisis, when Stephen Vogt was called up to replace a concussed John Jaso. Freitas never seemed to find it at the plate (take note of the mere 25 plate appearances against Triple-A left-handed pitching), and was sent to the Baltimore Orioles after 2013 for cash considerations.

Jason Jaramillo (August 21, 2012)

On August 20, the A's elected to designate Anthony Recker for assignment in order to clear space on the 40-man roster for Brett Anderson's activation from the 60-day disabled list. Recker's absence created a lack of catching depth in Sacramento, leading to Jason Jaramillo's signing the next day.

SHB Jason Jaramillo Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2012 29 AAA .135 60 291 186 156% .209 135 334 180 186%
2012 29 AA .251 38 160 136 118% .229 96 279 177 158%
2011 28 AAA .293 52 73 155 47% .234 103 280 196 143%
2009 26 MLB .156 33 283 168 168% .241 191 257 190 135%
2008 25 AAA .217 154 230 147 156% .279 313 122 190 64%
2007 24 AAA .273 158 114 143 80% .260 333 191 196 97%
2006 23 AA .230 97 203 153 133% .286 263 90 175 51%

Best described as a minor league journeyman, Jaramillo initially came up to MLB in 2009 as Ryan Doumit's backup with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Obviously only in Sacramento for his ability to catch a baseball thrown at 90 miles per hour in his general direction from 60-feet-6-inches away and throw out the occasional baserunner (he threw out 11-of-52 stolen base attempts at Triple-A in 2012), Jaramillo was released at the end of the season.

SHB Jason Jaramillo Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2013 30 AAA .283 59 80 141 57% .198 168 342 188 182%

In 2013, Jaramillo moved on to Triple-A stints in the Astros and Mariners organizations, but did not sign on to a team in 2014.

Blake Lalli (August 27, 2012)

To wind up the Brett Anderson activation, the A's were able to trade Anthony Recker to the Chicago Cubs for minor league catcher Blake Lalli. The A's actually could have returned Recker to the 40-man roster after Bartolo Colon picked up his 50-game performance enhancing drug suspension but the A's instead picked up some journeyman pitcher named Jesse Chavez in a cash transaction with the Toronto Blue Jays. Anyway, here's Blake Lalli:

LHB Blake Lalli Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2012 29 AAA .210 100 260 186 140% .275 240 122 180 68%
2011 28 AA .260 92 148 148 100% .256 301 202 194 104%
2010 27 AA .216 73 158 112 141% .264 251 123 133 92%
2009 26 AA .290 104 89 158 56% .282 336 95 170 56%
2008 25 A+ .228 64 205 144 142% .333 265 13 192 7%
2007 24 A .265 48 145 155 94% .276 241 125 185 68%

Lalli got his first Major League base hit on May 21, 2012 for the Cubs in an inning that involved a notable number of ex-Athletics and future Athletics. Travis Buck, playing for the Astros, lost Lalli's ball in the lights, scoring David DeJesus and one other runner. DeJesus reached base earlier on a single given up by Fernando Abad. The only other thing to make this perfect would have been if Jed Lowrie, playing shortstop, did anything that inning.

Anyway, Lalli did not stick around after 2012, electing free agency and signing on with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013 on a minor league deal. In 2014, he signed a minor league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks and spent the year with the Reno Aces, runner up in that year's Pacific Coast League Championship.

LHB Blake Lalli Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 31 AAA .103 32 281 156 180% .244 276 269 205 131%
2013 30 AAA .265 91 126 141 89% .273 220 146 188 78%

Luke Montz (November 9, 2012)

Remember that at the end of 2012, Derek Norris had shown a good bat at the minor league level, but was pretty much replacement level. Additionally, the A's needed someone who would at worst be a good Triple-A veteran and at best might be a late-bloomer. Enter free-agent signing Luke Montz:

RHB Luke Montz Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2012 28 AAA .348 148 15 186 8% .256 272 200 180 111%
2011 27 AA .381 146 4 148 3% .274 337 126 195 65%
2010 26 AA .181 29 176 112 157% .181 70 221 133 166%
2009 25 AA .285 123 102 158 65% .206 205 316 170 186%
2008 24 AAA .210 42 239 147 163% .215 139 312 190 164%
2008 24 AA .313 98 44 141 31% .297 156 60 188 32%
2007 23 AA .252 51 180 159 113% .216 106 317 188 169%
2007 23 A+ .345 70 14 138 10% .287 180 91 196 46%
2006 22 A+ .289 171 92 148 62% .253 340 207 181 114%

Montz had essentially been a career Double-A catcher in the Expos(!)/Nationals, Mets, and Marlins organizations before breaking out against left-handed pitching in his age-27 and -28 seasons. If you look closely, his bad lines against lefties in 2007 and 2008 came either immediately after a promotion, and he spent much of 2010 injured. Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS was a day game at the Astrodome on a Wednesday that went 16 innings before the Red Sox and Angels played ALCS Game 7 at Fenway.

In 2012, Montz actually played more games at first base than he did behind the plate. He had all the makings of being an opposite-handed Stephen Vogt.

RHB Luke Montz Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2013 29 AAA .317 38 31 141 22% .296 107 64 188 34%

So why did Stephen Vogt make it up to Oakland in 2013 and not Montz? The wrong catcher got hurt and Derek Norris turned into the lefty-destroyer the A's thought they acquired. Our own Alex Hall thought that Luke Montz, playing first base, should have ended Nate Freiman's Rule 5 draft-induced time in Oakland in May of that year:

[T]he emergence of Luke Montz has made Freiman completely superfluous. Montz already has four extra-base hits in 20 plate appearances, while Freiman has only managed three in his 50 PA's. Montz has a much larger body of professional experience, he spent 2012 smashing homers in AAA, and he provides more versatility on defense with his ability to back up Moss at 1st while also serving as a third catcher. He's a better, more experienced hitter, and a more valuable defender. If it's a choice between Montz and Freiman, then I want Montz as the right-handed power bat off the bench and the DH against lefties.

However, Montz did get a chance with the big league club when the A's had a string of injuries to outfielders in May 2013. Montz did not perform well, going just 5-for-28 with one walk and eight strikeouts for a .179/.200/.393 line. The A's stuck with Freiman and at the end of Sacramento's 2013 campaign, the A's released Montz, and re-signed him for 2014 in the next month. Montz had right shoulder surgery and spent the year rehabbing in extended spring training and then with the A's rookie league team in Phoenix. Hopefully he gets another chance to contribute with Oakland in 2015.

John Jaso (January 16, 2013)

When you look at the three-team deal that allowed John Jaso to come to Oakland, you have to wonder just what Mariners General Manager Jack Zdurienick saw in Michael Morse that made him think one year of him in right field was better than three years of John Jaso. The A's paid a high price in prospects, sending A.J. Cole, Blake Treinan, and Ian Krol to the Nationals to get Jaso from the Mariners:

LHB John Jaso Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2012 28 MLB .190 53 290 165 176% .365 308 4 184 2%
2011 27 MLB .185 38 277 159 174% .236 235 274 190 144%
2010 26 MLB .228 58 246 171 144% .275 346 125 188 66%
2009 25 AAA .257 93 161 153 105% .248 302 232 181 128%
2008 24 AAA .238 40 201 147 137% .296 78 67 190 35%
2008 24 AA .296 72 61 141 43% .265 278 165 188 88%
2007 23 AA .300 169 65 159 41% .335 316 10 188 5%
2006 22 A+ .186 79 243 148 164% .345 379 7 181 4%

Oh that 2012. Chalked up to a changed batting stance, Jaso's 2012 versus right-handed pitching was only bested by Joey Votto, Robinson Cano, and Mike Trout. Of course, we also knew we were getting a batter that was hopeless against left-handed pitching.

LHB John Jaso Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 30 MLB .183 27 290 170 171% .299 317 59 183 32%
2013 29 MLB .174 29 297 175 170% .306 220 38 190 20%

Jaso has had both of his seasons with the A's shortened by concussion. In 2013, Stephen Vogt had to pick up from there. In 2014, there just wasn't anybody, not with Stephen Vogt's bad foot. The A's have Jaso under team control through 2015, and it is a question whether he catches again for Oakland with his concussion problems.

Stephen Vogt (April 6, 2013)

The Tampa Bay Rays had to make some roster maneuvers as their injury replacement for an injured Luke Scott had to be added to the 40-man roster. Thus, the A's designated Stephen Vogt for assignment and traded him to the A's in a cash deal.

LHB Stephen Vogt Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2012 27 AAA .234 134 229 186 123% .272 262 132 180 73%
2011 26 AAA .225 34 230 155 148% .306 97 40 196 20%
2011 26 AA .262 125 143 148 97% .294 302 67 195 34%
2010 25 A+ .327 73 25 106 24% .328 290 13 155 8%
2008 23 A .329 129 22 142 15% .279 314 114 185 62%
2007 22 A- .316 69 11 23 48% .305 210 30 93 32%

Those are some consistent numbers against right-handed pitching, keeping in mind that 2012 was Vogt's first full season facing Triple-A pitchers. The A's were rewarded with the 10th best batter against right-handed Triple-A pitching, and called him up briefly in June and then for the rest of the year at the end of July when John Jaso went down with a concussion.

LHB Stephen Vogt Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 29 MLB .223 42 248 170 146% .294 245 72 183 39%
2013 28 MLB .223 18 251 175 143% .259 130 193 190 102%
2013 28 AAA .301 74 54 141 38% .332 264 10 188 5%

Vogt was good as John Jaso's replacement in 2013 and has only improved, showing off his versatility in the field. The A's are getting Vogt in his prime, and they have him under team control through 2019.

Chris Gimenez (December 20, 2013)

With Luke Montz undergoing shoulder surgery and homegrown catcher Ryan Ortiz barely getting a taste of Triple-A, the A's were looking for another right-handed bat just in case something went wrong with Derek Norris in spring training. The A's thus claimed Chris Gimenez from the Rays, releasing right-handed pitcher Pedro Figueroa in the process. The A's also did not mind his ability to play corner infield and outfield as well as catch.

RHB Chris Gimenez Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2013 30 AAA .243 119 171 141 121% .234 256 288 188 153%
2012 29 MLB .305 62 60 165 36% .122 47 329 184 179%
2012 29 AAA .353 116 11 186 6% .244 185 316 180 176%
2010 27 AAA .294 39 44 67 66% .243 83 161 115 140%
2009 26 MLB .154 25 283 168 168% .189 105 342 190 180%
2009 26 AAA .301 39 70 153 46% .221 115 307 181 170%
2008 25 AAA .274 73 114 147 78% .251 152 224 190 118%
2008 25 AA .344 72 15 141 11% .368 160 6 188 3%
2007 24 AA .341 26 22 159 14% .218 96 310 188 165%
2007 24 A+ .360 117 7 138 5% .307 218 39 196 20%
2006 23 A .319 93 51 140 36% .235 267 242 161 150%

Gimenez had always done well against left-handed pitching in the minors, but was replacement level or worse in his brief appearances at the MLB level. Gimenez was out of options, however, and by the end of spring training there was no choice but to drop Gimenez from the roster. He ended up claimed by the Texas Rangers, who needed a catcher after Geovany Soto went on the disabled list needing knee surgery. For a brief time, Gimenez tried free agency after the Rangers outrighted him, but he re-signed with the Rangers on a minor league deal a few days later.

RHB Chris Gimenez Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 31 MLB .195 38 283 170 166% .249 90 226 183 123%
2014 31 AAA .335 53 22 156 14% .269 103 153 205 75%

The A's did not miss out on much, considering the production they did get out of their catchers.

Dusty Brown (January 22, 2014)

The A's signed Dusty Brown to a minor league deal after he missed 2013 recovering from Tommy John Surgery.

RHB Dusty Brown Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2012 30 AAA .261 49 179 186 96% .299 126 66 180 37%
2011 29 AAA .249 50 182 155 117% .309 149 32 196 16%
2010 28 AAA .343 45 4 67 6% .198 110 218 115 190%
2009 27 AAA .252 36 172 152 113% .239 260 253 181 140%
2008 26 AAA .331 111 19 147 13% .292 242 78 190 41%
2007 25 AA .311 67 50 159 31% .258 228 194 188 103%
2006 24 AA .285 118 103 153 67% .225 223 267 175 153%

Unfortunately, Brown exited spring training needed arthroscopic shoulder surgery. After a few rehabilitation games in rookie ball, the A's released him. Brown finished the year with Cleveland's Triple-A team.

Blake Forsythe (April 14, 2014)

For "future considerations", the Mets sent Double-A catcher Blake Forsythe to the A's.

RHB Blake Forsythe Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2013 23 AA .242 88 168 128 131% .220 251 301 171 176%
2012 22 A+ .259 119 147 146 101% .253 226 209 187 112%
2011 21 A .272 101 100 128 78% .272 333 140 183 77%

Forsythe had not been given a chance to settle in at any level with the Mets. How did he do in his second year in Double-A, now with the Midland Rockhounds?

RHB Blake Forsythe Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 24 AA .233 87 189 139 136% .231 175 286 179 160%

Even worse, I'm afraid. Forsythe is young and could still be a late bloomer, but for now he's minor league filler.

Luis Exposito (June 25, 2014)

River Cats catcher Ryan Lipkin went on the disabled list, and Blake Forsythe was the next catcher in the organization. That was going to be unsuitable, so the A's signed Luis Exposito after the Detroit Tigers released him.

RHB Luis Exposito Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2013 26 AAA .271 64 108 141 77% .212 158 331 188 176%
2012 25 AAA .296 69 84 186 45% .226 166 308 180 171%
2011 24 AAA .295 97 66 155 43% .204 263 328 196 167%
2010 23 AA .306 112 48 112 43% .231 296 188 133 141%
2009 22 A+ .242 138 176 143 123% .279 177 113 186 61%
2008 21 A+ .294 86 70 144 49% .266 191 166 192 86%
2008 21 A .333 59 20 142 14% .281 142 106 185 57%
2006 19 A- .170 62 38 28 136% .225 161 111 74 150%

A catcher that showed some consistency against left-handed pitching, Exposito proved awful against right-handed pitching in Triple-A. He did not improve in 2014 and was released at the beginning of August.

RHB Luis Exposito Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 27 AAA .235 52 215 156 138% .247 131 253 205 123%

Josh Ludy (July 21, 2014)

The Philadelphia Phillies drafted Josh Ludy in the eighth round of the 2012 draft, and released him at the end of 2014 spring training. He signed onto the River City Rascals of the independent Frontier League before signing a minor league deal with the A's.

RHB Josh Ludy Age Class
TAv
v. LHP
PA
Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
%
TAv
v. RHP
PA
Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2013 23 A .261 50 107 111 96% .200 56 331 189 175%
2012 22 A .244 51 182 152 120% .332 75 13 200 7%

Ludy only got 68 plate appearances with the Class-A Beloit Snappers in 2014, batting .218/.358/.400. It should be interesting to see if the A's give Ludy an extended look next year despite his advanced age for Low-A ball.

Luis Martinez (August 2, 2014)

Instead of Luis Exposito, the A's gave Los Angeles Angels castoff Luis Martinez a look:

RHB Luis Martinez Age Class TAv
v. LHP
PA Rank
(min.
75 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
75 PA)
% TAv
v. RHP
PA Rank
(min.
150 PA)
.260 Rank
(min.
150 PA)
%
2014 29 AAA .285 32 107 156 69% .228 227 312 205 152%
2013 28 AA .204 80 218 128 170% .261 149 169 171 99%
2012 27 AAA .260 81 182 186 98% .255 166 205 180 114%
2011 26 AAA .245 49 188 155 121% .262 170 187 196 95%
2010 25 AA .361 129 6 112 5% .265 200 122 133 92%
2009 24 A+ .205 88 241 143 169% .305 229 44 186 24%
2008 23 A .291 134 75 142 53% .212 223 303 185 164%

I guess we can understand why Derek Norris never got any disabled list time.

I'm not going to include Bryan Anderson, Geovany Soto, and Kurt Suzuki round 2 as all were short-term stopgaps to deal with a critical catcher shortage.

Final thoughts

The three catchers who made it, Norris, Jaso, and Vogt, all arrived with significant question marks. Norris has played no higher than Double-A when he arrived. John Jaso had a crazy power spike that the Mariners were willing to walk away from for just one year of Michael Morse. Stephen Vogt went his first 35 MLB plate appearances without a base hit until homering off Joe Kelly on June 28, 2013.

It has worked out for the A's, though we saw what happened this season when two of the three-headed catcher trio were unable to get behind the dish. Too much Derek Norris where he's not at his strongest, with nothing in the organization to back him. What's the future? I'm not sure I see anyone but good-defending light-hitting receivers in the A's system. A lot of teams manage with a good receiver behind the plate. Heck, the A's were on their way to beating the Royals with a good Geovany Soto behind the plate until his freak injury.

Next time, we'll take a look at first base acquisitions.