When the Chicago White Sox signed Yasmani Grandal in 2020 they invested $73 million to solidly the catcher position for the next four years. So far, it has worked out nicely for the White Sox. The backup catcher position has been a different story.
Heading into the 2021 season, it was a heated battle for the number two job behind Grandal. It was a four-man race. Longtime prospect Zack Collins battled Seby Zavala, Yermin Mercedes, and veteran Jonathan Lucroy, who was brought in to compete for the job. They say competition breeds excellence. In this case, the competition produced Zack Collins who emerged from spring training with a spot on the roster.
In 2021, Collins got his first real chance to show what he could do at the Major Leagues. While the other players got a chance to experience growing pains in the Major Leagues, Collins was blocked by Wellington Castillo and James McCann.
In 2020 the White Sox added Grandal so once again Collins was the odd man out. The concern for Collins was his poor defense behind the plate but after working with Jerry Naron throughout the offseason, it looked as if Collins was finally ready to take the next step.
He did not. Collins struggled mightly costing the White Sox a -43 Rtot/yr (considers both a player’s range, their error totals, along with other data such as arm strength and catcher data) which is far below the major league average.
He also had difficulty controlling baserunners. No matter what defensive metric you use it wasn’t pretty. His struggles continued at the plate. In 2021, he batted .210/.330/.338 with 69 strikeouts. He was hailed for his ability to draw walks in college but only took 34 free passes. Collins was also only able to muster up 4 home runs and 26 RBIs.
The Chicago White Sox haven’t had the best luck with their backup catchers.
Midway through the season, Grandal went down with a knee injury giving Seby Zavala some opportunities behind the plate. He didn’t fare much better. Like Collins, he struggled to control baserunners and posted a -26 Rtot/yr.
The pair of catchers ranked near the bottom of almost every defensive metric amongst catchers. While Zavala did have an incredible three home-run game in July, he struggled at the plate as well. He slashed just .183/.240/.376
Grandal can’t catch all 162 games so if neither Collins nor Zavala can get the job done adequately, then it might be time for an upgrade. A backup catcher isn’t the splashiest move to make but if there is room for improvement then why not try and improve?
There are options available in free agency if Hahn wants to target an upgrade once the lockout ends. That list of catchers includes some veterans which would be an added plus but none of them jump off the page in terms of splash value. Perhaps the White Sox opts to stay with either Collins or Zavala and address other needs. If not, here are three potential solutions to the backup catcher position.