30 in 30: A Chiefs Countdown to Opening Day – Day 2
We’re counting down until Opening Day with a new post on our Inside the Chiefs blog every day until Syracuse’s opener on April 3rd. Here’s what’s on tap today…
It’s Day 2 of our countdown, and I’m thinking about that number today – the number 2, not the letter 2 (see the 6:07 mark) – and how it pertains to baseball. The first thing that comes to mind? Retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whose pinstriped #2 will soon hang in Monument Park for baseball eternity. He, however, didn’t play for the Chiefs, so I’m not sure there’s value here.
My second thought – perhaps more appropriate, considering the number – is what “2” signifies on a baseball field – the catcher. And in 2013, catcher was perhaps the Chiefs’ most fluctuating position. Here are last year’s Syracuse leaders in games per position:
- First Base: Chris Marrero, 97
- Second Base: Will Rhymes, 82
- Shortstop: Zach Walters, 104
- Third Base: Carlos Rivero, 42
- Outfield: Corey Brown, 99 + Chris Rahl, 95 + Eury Perez, 92
- Catcher: Kris Watts, 40
Outside of third base, there wasn’t a position that had nearly the inconsistency of catcher last year. The other problem? The Chiefs didn’t get much offense out of their backstops…
- Kris Watts (40 games): .211 average/.342 OBP/.328 slugging
- Jhonatan Solano (38): .214/.245/.279
- Brian Jeroloman (30): .221/.318/.263
- Carlos Maldonado (14): .098/.159/.098
- Jeff Howell (13): .217/.234/.348
- Kelly Shoppach (10): .219/.359/.219
- Sam Palace (1): .000/.000/.000
Last year’s pitching staff frequently raved about the team’s catchers as game-callers and defenders. It’s tricky to measure that with the data we have available for the minor leagues, but there’s no reason to doubt that. However, there’s no question Syracuse’s catchers have room to improve offensively in 2014.
So what can we expect? With the trade of Jose Lobaton to the Nationals, Solano likely slides in as the unquestioned starter in Syracuse. After two years full of injuries and trips back and forth between Syracuse and Washington, you could reasonably expect a performance closer to 2011’s .275/.325/.388 line for the Chiefs, given consistent playing time. Chris Snyder – a career .484 slugger in 76 Triple-A games and veteran of 715 major-league games – is also in camp with the Nationals, along with Jeroloman (career .368 minor-league OBP) and Howell.
The big question mark, of course, is Wilson Ramos. Can the Nationals’ unquestioned leader behind the plate stay healthy this year? If so, the Chiefs won’t need to be robbed of their catchers – which could lead to an A-1 performance from the “2”s.
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