Blue Jays: Will Luke Maile be able to provide a positive fWAR?
Throughout the recent history (give or take 10 years), the backup catchers spot on the Toronto Blue Jays roster has been largely a black hole. Granted, most teams around the MLB would be lucky to have a quality backup catcher and that holds true to this day. The Blue Jays seem destined to open up with Luke Maile, who was below replacement level in 2017 like many on the Blue Jays bench. Can he provide any sort of positive value in 2018? It’s definitely possible.
Luke Maile struggled mightily at the plate in 2017 in his 136 at-bats. He hit two home runs, drove in seven, had a slash line of .146/.176/.231, a .178 wOBA, and 0 wRC+. Pretty horrific numbers at the plate. The one thing of value he brought was his defense, and in the few games he actually pitched and had Maile catch him, Aaron Sanchez loved throwing to him.
Granted, Maile did deal with a nagging knee injury all season long, which prevented any sort of firm plant on his drive leg, and definitely affected his hitting. Is it so inconceivable to believe Maile can provide even a little bit more offensively to not be such a black hole at the plate? He won’t hit a lot, but in his 2016 with the Tampa Bay Rays he was better with three home runs, 15 RBI, a slashline of .227/.252/.361, a wOBA of .261 and wRC+ of 61. That combined with his defense was worth 0.2 wins.
You shouldn’t expect much more than that as Maile struggled more and more at the plate each level he advanced through the Rays system, but his defense alone with a bit more offensive production should be able to produce even a little bit more than below, or at replacement level.
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I’m not here to advocate for Luke Maile to be the backup catcher all year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him off the team entirely with the likes of Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire pushing for promotions to the big club. Should Maile get hurt, we’d likely see McGuire promoted to backup Russell Martin. If Martin goes down, expect Jansen to come up to be the every day guy behind the plate with Maile backing up Jansen.
To start the season it will be Luke Maile, and the Blue Jays will need to count on him to chip in every once in a while at the plate while providing his good defense. It is entirely possible that Maile could contribute every now and then with a full slate of health, and the Blue Jays will need that to start the season when Russell Martin takes a day off. For now, we will just have to live with Luke Maile behind the plate, and at the plate until a better option comes along.