With the addition of Jose Morales, the Pirates currently have a hilarious six catchers that are somewhere between the Majors and Triple-A, not counting actual prospect Tony Sanchez. They are, in alphabetical order, Rod Barajas, Jake Fox, Eric Fryer, Jason Jaramillo, Mike McKenry, Morales, and Wyatt Toregas. I have never seen such an acumulation of mediocre-to-sub-par catching talent in one place in my entire life and now the only thing I can think to do is to rank them all by offense, defense, scrappiness, and intangibles.
Let’s go to the list!
1. Rod Barajas
- Offense: 2 (relative to baseball in general), 7 (relative to the field). Barajas’s offensive value mostly relies on the fact that he can occasionally hit home runs. PNC Park will almost entirely neuter this ability. But he’s still better offensively than just about anyone else on this list!
- Defense: Let’s be honest, I don’t know the best way to truly characterize catcher defense and you don’t, either. All indications, though, are that Barajas is pretty good, both in the traditional ways that you can measure catching defense and the new ways to look at things like blocking pitches in the dirt. The Pirates have a pretty progressive statistics component to their front office, so I’ll tell myself that he scores pretty highly.
- Scrappiness: As a guy that played for both the Mets and Dodgers, he is barred from being referred to as “scrappy” under the Small Market Scrappiness Agreement, which first came about under during the resolution of the 1994/1995 player’s strike.
- Intangibles: The Pirates are paying him $4 million. That makes him go #1 if only for my sanity alone.
2. Eric Fryer
- Offense: incomplete. Fryer has a career minor league line of .281/.372/.427, which is pretty good for a catcher, but he didn’t get above Advanced-A until last year, when he was 25. He’s barely got any experience above Double-A and he cratered in Triple-A last year after a brief stint with the Pirates. He can take a walk and he showed some power with Altoona last year, but his age at the level and the fact that he always seems to be blocked means that he’s pretty much impossible to judge.
- Defense: Same thing applies here, but everyone that’s watched him play raves about him.
- Scrappiness: He’s from Ohio. OHIO. The name Eric Fryer just sounds scrappy.
- Intangibles: Nicknamed Fryerbot by the McEffect last year, which is awesome. Young enough that he might not completely suck. I like him.
3. Don Slaught
- Used to have an awesome mustache, was a glove-deficient line-drive machine.
- My nickname in the machine pitch league when I was eight was Sluggo, because I was our catcher and I was a line drive machine. I don’t know if I was actually a line drive machine, but I tell myself I was. I probably wasn’t: there was no base stealing allowed in machine pitch and since I was an eight year old and this was way back in the day at Hermitage Little League when there was no bridge between machine-pitch and Little League, which meant that there was a lot of nine and ten-year olds in machine pitch, they probably just stuck me there because they needed a catcher and called me Sluggo because I liked it and they were trying hide the fact that they were burying me on the field.
- I might actually rather have the 2011 version of Don Slaught, whatever that entails, than anyone else on this list from this point onwards. To be fair, though, I was always a big Don Slaught fan.
4. Mike McKenry
- Offense: In his early days in the minors with the Rockies he showed some decent pop and his minor league lines indicated at least an ability to take a walk. A relatively robust strikeout, total, is probably a decent indicator that he’s unlikely to do much better than the .222 batting average (his BABIP last year with the Pirates was a dead-average .290), which means he won’t hit much in the Majors. He did have that homer off of Marmol, though.
- Defense: Not enough of a sample size to really judge his advanced stats from last year, though his minor league reputation is strong. He was obviously better than Ryan Doumit, for what that’s worth (NOTE: that’s worth nothing).
- Scrappiness: Mike McKenry is so scrappy (How scrappy is he?) that the Pirates are considering re-writing the team history books to refer to Phil Garner as “McKenry Iron.” Mike McKenry is so scrappy (How scrappy is he?) that he could be a punt returner/wide receiver/running back/defensive back for the Patriots. Mike McKenry is so scrappy (How scrappy is he?) that people just assume that he was a punter for Nebraska.
- Intangibles: Greg Brown loves him so much it makes my head hurt. But to counterbalance that, I started calling him Scrappy Doo last year and then he said on the scoreboard that Scrappy Doo is his favorite cartoon. Which means he might be a WHYGAVS reader. I’m sorry for all the mean things I’ve said about you, Mike. You’re a much better catcher than I ever was. I was a Ryan-Doumit-level defender behind the plate after Little League, if we’re being perfectly honest. Except that I could always throw out base stealers pretty well.
5. Jake Fox
- Offense: He has 20 career big league homers, which I can tell you without even a Baseball-Reference search is more than everyone else except for Barajas on this list combined. Depending on how Fryer’s career plays out, that will likely still hold true in 2050. But more seriously, the dude is like Brad Eldred. He can hit home runs, but he will strike out.
- Defense: Calling what he does defense is akin to calling baseball hockey.
- Scrappiness: Guys with some pop that strike out a ton aren’t generally allowed to be called scrappy under the Dave Kingman Corollary.
- Intangibles: Played well enough in 2006 to convince some Cubs fans he was good, then hilariously dashed their hopes.
6. Jason Jaramillo
- Offense: Once hit a home run at a spring training game I was at.
- Defense: Good, I guess?
- Scrappiness: Was acquired in a trade for Ronny Paulino, the least scrappy player in Pirate history. That gives him a scrappiness boost. When you consider that he’s a Quad-A catcher, that makes him pretty scrappy.
- Intangibles: Lots of Pirate fans to pronouce his last name phoenetically, which drives me insane.
7. Jose Morales
- Offense: His major league numbers are, to this point, better than either McKenry’s or Jaramillo’s. It’s an awfully small sample size, though, and his minor league numbers (.286/.341/.383) are bad. Also, he’s played parts of ten seasons in the minors. That’s never good.
- Defense: On one hand, I say to myself that his defense must be good, because why else would he still be in baseball? On the other hand, he’s listed as a C/1B, which is usually a sign of a catcher that can’t catch. I know this because when I was 14, my coach moved me to first base because I couldn’t really catch.
- Scrappiness: Mostly, scrappiness is code for “untalented white guy.” In order to combat this form of institutional racism, I will refer to Morales as The Scrappy Jose Morales, should he ever make the team. I mean, all Quad-A/aspiring back-up catchers who rely almost entirely on defensive reputation have to be scrappy, right? What else do they have?
- Intangibles: I don’t know enough about this guy to honestly make a judgment.
8. Wyatt Toregas
- He wasn’t a Pirate for a while, but now he is again! I just used an exclamation point in a sentence about Wyatt Toregas. This post is draining my sanity.
9. Brian Jeroloman
- Would be ranked higher due to his purportedly strong defensive abilities, but is no longer a Pirate because the Blue Jays re-claimed him on waivers like two minutes after the Pirates claimed him the first time. If the Pirates should ever re-acquire him, his nickname will be Hot Potato.