The Jays Journal takes it’s look at the season that was for Luke Maile and Miguel Montero, two of the many back-up catchers from the 2017 season.
Blah blah One area that the Blue Jays aim to improve on this offseason is the back-up catcher. It’s with good reason too, as the many players that shuffled through the position just didn’t get the job done. Whether it was with terrible defence or anemic skills at the plate, it was a long season to watch, especially in a year where Russell Martin only played 91 games.
The list of catchers the Blue Jays employed includes Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Luke Maile, Raffy Lopez, Mike Ohlman, and Miguel Montero. “Salty” started the season with the job, but was eventually cut in favour of the defensively gifted Maile. When he got injured, that’s when the merry-go-round really began.
For the purposes of this instalment of the Good, Bad, and the Ugly series, we’re going to focus on Luke Maile and Miguel Montero, two veterans who could theoretically factor into the position in 2018.
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There’s not a lot to talk about here with these two, so let’s focus on Maile’s rock solid defence behind the plate. While he doesn’t offer a lot with the stick, Maile was by far the best defensive catcher of the group, and Montero may never have been acquired if Maile hadn’t needed knee surgery.
Alas, the injury happened and disrupted the hold that Maile had on the position, which was significant at the time with Martin on the DL. All in all, he played in 46 games and earned a +0.9 dWAR, which was the highlight of any of the stat lines of the group.
I could categorize the Bad and Ugly in a number of ways, but I’m going to look at the offensive contribution from the two catchers here. Since we’ve already been talking about him, let’s talk about what Maile did at the plate instead of behind it, and it wasn’t much.
In 130 at bats, he hit .146/,176/.231 with two home runs, seven RBI, and five doubles. Granted, it sounds like he was trying to hit off of one leg before he succumbed to surgery, but he’s still not much as a hitter regardless.
For Montero, he was supposed to bring a bit of offence to the position when the Blue Jays picked him up, shortly after he was cut by the Chicago Cubs. He never displayed that offensive touch in Toronto though, as he hit just .138/.248/.241 with two home runs and eight RBI in 87 at bats. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but he looked pretty lost at the plate throughout his time with the Blue Jays.
As bad as the two of them were at the plate, I’m saving “the Ugly” for Montero’s defence, which was absolutely horrendous. If you missed it, Montero was cut by the Cubs earlier in the season, partially because of his defensive capabilities, but also because of a post-game interview he did, where he threw his teammate under the bus for the way runners were held on. It wasn’t a good look, and the Cubs decided they were better off without him.
Upon arriving to Toronto, he earned an astonishing -0.7 bWAR in those 32 games played, with his defensive rating coming out at -0.1. It felt much worse than that too. Montero threw out just five out of 58 attempt base stealers in 2018, with his mark improving in Toronto at four for 27. Opposing players ran at will, and there was seemingly nothing Montero could do about it. Not exactly what you want from your back-up catcher.
So where does that leave the Blue Jays this offseason? Hopefully in hot pursuit of a more effective option behind the plate, especially as Russell Martin enters his age 35 season and will need a little more of a break to stay fresh.