The AL East will see several new faces behind the plate this year. The players not only bring power that was lacking, but also plenty of experience. This new group joins some strong catchers who were already in the division. Here is how the East’s catchers rank heading into 2014.
#1 New York Yankees
The signing of Brian McCann allows the Yankees to move from worst to first at the position. When healthy, McCann has a game changing bat which should play very well at Yankee Stadium. Playing half of his games there makes him an instant 25 plus homerun threat. He has 176 career homeruns, and has hit 20 or more homeruns in seven of his nine big league seasons. His bat has also allowed him to be a part of seven all-star games and to win five Silver Slugger Awards. While he is not a Gold Glove caliber defender, McCann has shown in his time with Atlanta that he knows how to handle a staff. With the brutal season that the Yankee catchers had last year, McCann will be a breath of fresh air.
Francisco Cervelli should be the primary backup for McCann this season. Cervelli is coming back after serving a 50 game PED suspension last season. He held his own at the plate in 2013, hitting eight homeruns and batting .271 in limited action. The Yankees top catching prospect and the number four rated catching prospect by MLB.com, Gary Sanchez, may be ready to play by 2015. He like McCann, has a power bat, but needs improvement defensively. When he is ready, he may push McCann into a DH role.
#2 Baltimore Orioles
Upon entering the league, Matt Wieters had gigantic expectations. The all-star catcher has lived up to the hype. While his average has not been as high as expected, he has played well enough to play in two all-star games. In five big league seasons, he has hit 87 homeruns. Wieters limits passed ball and possesses a strong arm behind the plate. These skills have allowed him to win two Gold Gloves. Heading into the season, he will be counted on to produce both at the plate and in the field.
While Wieters will start a majority of games, former Cubs prospect Steve Clevenger is his primary backup. While he has an organizational all-star for the Cubs in 2011, he has yet to see enough big league at bats to be trusted if he was thrust into a full time role.
#3 Boston Red Sox
A.J. Pierzynski was signed this offseason to replace the departed Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Pierzynski brings 16 years of big league catching experience with him. The 37 year old is a hard-nosed ball player, who will always back up his teammates. Offensively, Pierzynski brings pop to the plate. Playing with a short porch in Fenway Park should help his power numbers rise. Behind the plate he is a reliable and confident backstop. His steady game calling should help the strong Sox staff pitch even better.
David Ross backs up Pierzynski. While he probably will not see a ton of time behind the plate, the Red Sox will look for ways to get his powerful bat in the lineup.
#4 Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays acquired Ryan Hanigan in a trade this offseason. The former Red struggled mightily last season, batting just .198 with two homeruns. He has only had more than 300 at bats once in his career so there is a good chance that there will be plenty of playing time for others.
Others in the mix for playing time are Jose Lobaton and Jose Molina. Lobaton gives the team a bit stronger offensive option, but Molina has a rocket arm that has thrown out 38 percent of the runners who have attempted to steal on him in his career. If Hanigan falters, they should see plenty of time.
#5 Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays much like the Rays should have a catching by committee situation after trading J.P. Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud. Doiner Navarro was signed to a two year contract this offseason. He had a very strong 2013 playing part-time with the Cubs. In just 240 at-bats, Navarro slugged 13 homeruns. He should see his playing time increased this season with the Jays.
Behind Navarro are veterans Eric Kratz and Josh Tole. Neither of them are big offensive threats and both are hitters who have hit below .250 in their careers. If Navarro can hit like he did last season, he should see plenty of time.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference and MLB.com