The White Sox brought in two new catchers for 2016, and so far it has paid off. Neither Alex Avila or Dioner Navarro have been elite, but they have been an upgrade over 2015 starter Tyler Flowers.
Flowers struggled as the starter last season. He struck out 104 times in 331 at bats. He had 21 walks in 361 plate appearances and a .295 On Base Percentage. The signings of Avila and Navarro were done with the goal of upgrading the offense at catcher. Here are the grades for White Sox catchers for the 2016 first half:
Alex Avila: C
Avila’s numbers won’t pop off the page. He takes enough pitches to walk once every six at-bats. His .362 on-base percentage is solid for a bottom of the order hitter. His power numbers are virtually non-existent ( three HR, six RBI’s), but his ability to take pitches and work for base on balls is helping the team offensively. His defense has been solid, his caught stealing is down from years past (25%), his DWAR is +0.6, and only has two errors. One big issue for Avila has been staying healthy. He is making his second trip to the disabled list this week.
Dioner Navarro: C-
Avila has been the primary starter when healthy. Navarro has done a decent job when asked to take his place. He is striking out far too much for a hitter that doesn’t walk or hit for power. He may punch out close to 80 times this season. That would be a career high. Reaching his career high of 76 depends on how much he plays in the second half.
Navarro has been the better run producer of the two catchers (five HR’s, 23 RBI’s). Navarro doesn’t walk much, contributing to a low OBP% (.277). With a .216 batting average, this is concerning.
A strength of Navarro’s game is his awareness behind the plate. He tries to pick runners off. His defense is not as good as Avila’s. Navarro has made twice as many errors (four), and his arm isn’t as strong.
Other Catchers: Incomplete
Hector Sanchez and has played in a two games and Omar Navarez has yet to play. It wouldn’t make sense to grade them.
The White Sox are getting the exact play that they expected from the catcher position. What a team wants behind the plate is a leader, and Avila and Navarro have proven to be good leaders.
An All-Star backstop would be great, but they are not easy to find. An average catcher with good intangibles is enough to win with. That is exactly what the White Sox have.
The White Sox could make a deal to bring in an All-Star catcher at the deadline. After drafting Zack Collins last month that’s unlikely. If Avila and Navarro keep playing the way well, there won’t be a need for a change behind the plate this season. They might look to upgrade in the off-season.