Even though Tyler Flowers had been named as the Chicago White Sox starting catcher a couple of day before, that role seemingly became official when Josh Phegley was sent to the minor league yesterday. Phegley, despite not being the backup, was Flowers closest competition in camp, and was expected to be sent to Charlotte for consistent playing time when he was unable to win the White Sox starting job.
Mar 2, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers (21) chases the ball in the second inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY
Despite being slightly outperformed by Phegley, Flowers now has the starting job. He has performed somewhat well during Spring Training, posting a .250/.300/.500 batting line with two home runs thus far, but has also struck out six times in 28 at bats. While Flowers does have solid power potential, having hit 22 home runs in 529 career at bats, he also has a propensity to striking out, with 201 career strikeouts.
That inability to make contact has been a major factor in Tyler Flowers disappointing production. Although he does hit for power, Flowers has only produced a career .200/.279/.372 batting line. This deficiency would be somewhat excusable is Flowers was a good defensive catcher, but he is essentially league average there. Over his career, Flowers has been worth exactly one defensive run saved, has caught a league average 26% of would be base stealers and is within one point of the average fielding percentage. In short, Flowers appears to be more of a backup catcher with a bit of pop in his bat than a major league caliber starter.
Yet, as can be the case with a team in the midst of a rebuilding project, Flowers may be the best of what the White Sox have. Unfortunately, that may be the case for some time, unless the White Sox make a trade to acquire a young catcher. While the farm system has improved to the point where there is legitimate depth and is no longer considered the worst in baseball, there is virtually nothing in the pipeline for catching prospects. Rule V draftee Adrian Nieto may stick with the White Sox as the backup catcher, but he has never played a game about A ball despite entering the season at 24 years of age.
Tyler Flowers may have won the starting catcher job for the White Sox out of Spring Training, but this may not be a position he holds all season. Chances are, Nieto and Josh Phegley will also get a chance at some point this season.