With A.J. Pierzynski seemingly on his way out of Chicago, a new employee of whomever is willing to offer the most years for the most money, the White Sox find themselves trying to figure out how exactly they should move forward with regards to catcher position. As it stands, broken hand or not, Tyler Flowers is set to slide in and take over the everyday duties. His defensive performance has been less of a concern than originally thought, but conversely, the offense that was supposedly ready to play at the big league level years ago has yet to really show itself consistently. In about 150 2012 plate appearances Flowers managed to strike out over a third of the time while displaying some big power when making contact. You and I may look at his .213/.296/.412 line and think that if this guy is going to play 4 out of 5 days, he’ll need to make big improvements. Tyler doesn’t necessarily have his sights on a huge offensive improvement, though:
Guys are out there with a .220 average and 15 homers and they are making a huge impact at catcher, when you ask the organization. It’s not just the offensive side. It gets so blown up, but the stuff on the other end for a catcher is just as important, if not more.
He’s not wrong. We’ve discussed before how thin the catcher position is, and should A.J. walk, the other free agent options, the likes of Kelly Shoppach, Gerald Laird, and Yorvit Torrealba don’t offer much if any improvement over what we can likely expect from Flowers and without the benefit of pre-arbitration salary. In fact, though Tyler Flowers is clearly not going to be A.J. Pierzynski, the relative drop-off doesn’t need to be huge considering the lack of league depth at the position.
If you were to assume 500 plate appearances for Flowers at his 2012 rate, he’s looking at somewhere in the area of 23 homeruns, though Adam Dunn may smirk at his strikeout total, which would be edging its way towards 200. A couple things here. One, 23 homeruns brings Flowers only 4 short of Pierzynski’s unexpected power explosion. Granted, the batting average will be considerably lower (65 points lower in 2012) but that sort of power is definitely registering a tally in the ‘plus’ column. Second, it stands to reason that if Flowers dedicates himself to cutting down on the swing and miss, his average will rise and that could even translate into some additional power. If he pushes past that .220 average he points out, and gets anywhere near a .250 spot, he’ll be one hell of a contributor, bringing an above-average bat to a premium position for just over the league minimum salary. As enticing as it is to throw some extra money A.J.’s way, possessing contributors at the bottom of the pay scale is a very important part of fielding a winning team. Flowers being a positive contributor for the White Sox while catching full time is not a stretch, even without any clear offensive improvements. The Tyler Flowers era is likely here, folks. Get used to it, embrace it, enjoy it.