clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Talking Chop Mailbag, February 26: Spring Training stats and future catchers

New, 18 comments

Have any questions, comments or concerns that you want addressed on the Talking Chop Podcast? Here's your chance to be heard — literally.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the second edition of the Talking Chop Mailbag. A huge thanks to everyone who submitted questions and comments last week, and hopefully we were able to answer a handful of them reasonably well in the comment section, the podcast and the two I'll be addressing below today.

Like I mentioned last week, we are going to try and do this every Friday, so feel free to use the comment section below for anything that's on your mind this week as the Braves get set to start Spring Training games.

Let's jump into a couple questions.

How much do Hector Olivera's Spring Training stats matter? While they're only Spring Training stats, it seems even modest success could go a long way in making Braves fans feel better about the Wood/Peraza deal. -- via seth.sosebee.3

Not one bit. People stress this every year it seems, but every season it also seems that we need to reinforce it. The thing you should be looking for with Olivera — and other hitters — is to see if he is getting his timing down, seeing pitches well and that his swing is in good shape.

Basically, things that scouts are really good at noticing. Things that stats aren't going to show us. If Olivera comes out the first week of Spring Training and homers every game, you should probably temper your expectations. If he comes out and strikes out three times a game the first week, you should probably avoid lighting all of your Braves gear on fire.

This question also brings me to another topic that I feel like we should address, and that's the fact that he has played in 24 MLB games in his career. Twenty-four. I'm not saying that you need to like the trade that sent Alex Wood and Jose Peraza away. I'm not even saying that you need to like Hector Olivera himself.

But I do feel like it's important to give the guy a chance. There are many baseball experts in the game who believe in his hit tool, and both the Braves and Dodgers obviously felt there was some substantial talent there that they were willing to invest so much money (LA) and player value (ATL) in him. Let's see what happens when Olivera actually gets some time to adjust to the game at the highest level.

Catcher of the future. I like Tyler Flowers but he can't be our long-term answer behind the plate can he? Who's in the pipe or do we need to get someone? -- via pennant clinching birthday

Yeah... Tyler Flowers is probably not the catcher of the future considering that fact that he just turned 30 and that he's a career .223/.289/.376 hitter. He brings in some value in that he's a pretty good pitch framer and he also has a little pop (career .154 ISO with 46 home runs). Still, he strikes out a third of the time and he doesn't hit righties near enough to be an every day player.

After trading away Christian Bethancourt, there aren't any players you can look at in the minor league system and say, "He might be the guy in a year or two," but there are some interesting players to keep an eye on at the lower level.

The first player that comes to mind is Lucas Herbert, who caught for top pitching prospect Kolby Allard at San Clemente High in California. Herbert was taken in the second round of the 2015 draft and was the fourth catcher selected, primarily because of strong receiving and throwing skills. He was routinely clocking 1.9-second pop times, which is above-average for MLB catchers. The big question with him is how well he's going to hit, and it could be a few years before we have any reliable indication of his offensive skill-set.

Trey Keegan is another catcher the Braves took in the 2015 draft, although he was taken in the 14th round with the 420th-overall pick. He comes out of Bowling Green State and is a career .295/.405/.453 hitter there with more walks than strikeouts. His approach at the plate is impressive, but it will be interesting to see if that is sustainable as Keegan faces better and better pitchers in the minors. In 26 games with Danville in rookie ball, he hit .267/.343/.314 with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts.

The last guy I'll touch on was also drafted last year, coming in Round 25, with Pick 750. I don't know much about Jonathan Morales, but he certainly left a nice impression in 46 games in the Gulf Coast League, where he hit .304/.377/.511 with seven home runs, seven doubles and as many walks as strikeouts (12). He comes out of Miami Dade, where he was named the 2015 Southern Conference Player of the Year after hitting .389 with a .492 slugging percentage as well as 11 stolen bases.

So, the Braves do have some interesting names at the catcher position, but there's no lock for a catcher of the future and we'll probably be relying on veterans and stop-gaps for a few years barring a trade.