Based on a purely anecdotal monitoring of Twitter, it seems as though White Sox fans do not like Tyler Flowers very much. It shouldn’t be a surprise – Flowers contains many of the common ingredients for an anti-fan favorite. Flowers was the centerpiece received in return for Javier Vazquez and his bat hasn’t been quite as good as advertised, he has a low batting average, strikes out a lot, and is seen as the reason why the White Sox didn’t pursue keeping the beloved A.J. Pierzynski around. I am here to be disagreeable and try to cheer people up about Flowers at the same time.
The Cairo projection system has been fairly accurate historically, and has the benefit of being pretty realistic – Bill James’ projections are almost always extremely optimistic, by contrast. For 2013, Cairo has Tyler Flowers hitting .224/.339/.426, which would be better than the 2012 average for catchers — .247/.319/.399. Further, Matt Klaassen’s very interesting catcher defense evaluation believes that Flowers is an asset behind the plate. From watching him, it’s clear that Flowers has a strong arm, and it would indeed seem as though his receiving skills have improved. Additionally, Flowers will be making pre-arbitration salary this year, and then is into arbitration for the following three years.
When you combine these factors – if Cairo and Klaassen are right, for example – you are getting above average production at a difficult position for a great price. Obviously, players with a low batting average are frustrating, and not necessarily the prettiest to watch – but that doesn’t mean Flowers is this awful player who is going to ruin the team next year. In fact, he could be one of the better assets the team currently has in terms of value. For a franchise that has had trouble developing position players, being able to get roughly league average production at a minimal cost is absolutely something fans should be happy about. Even forgetting how much they will cost, I think there’s a good shot that Flowers is more valuable on the field than Pierzynski in 2013.