This is Part One of an Eleven Part LTR Series in which we detail the Rangers current internal options at each position competing for starting positions in 2013.
Ever since the departure of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez the Texas Rangers have yet to have another mainstay behind the plate year-in and year-out. Instead they have gone through a whole army of backstops which recently have included Bengie Molina, Matt Treanor, Yorvit Torrealba, and Mike Napoli.
Going into 2013 the Rangers’ catching situation is actually in a more stable place than it has been pre-Spring Training in a few years. Geovany Soto returns to the backup / Yu Darvish-specific catching role. Soto was acquired last year at the trade deadline and though he isn’t a hitting presence, his ability to handle a pitching staff has made that acquisition a win for the Rangers.
As for the starting role, seasoned-veteran A.J. Pierzynski signed a one-year, $7.5MM contract with the club. Former catcher Mike Napoli is in Boston now, he originally signed a three-year, $39MM contract, but had to settle for a one-year deal after a failed physical. Please read those last two sentences again…Ranger fans, that’s why Napoli was let go and A.J. is here.
Without going into too much detail, I like Napoli…I loved Napoli here and thought it was a near-perfect trade that brought him to Texas from Anaheim via Toronto, but that was two years ago. Unfortunately for Napoli his body isn’t holding up like he wants it to or even I wish it would for him.
In 2012, Napoli hit .227, slugged 24 HRs and 56 RBI in 108 games between catcher, first base, and DH. Soto, a career .248 hitter, was two points below the Mendoza-line last year (.198), a mere .196 with 5 HRs and 25 RBI in his 47 Ranger appearances in 2012.
Pierzynski on the other hand, batted .277 with a career-high 27 HRs and tying his career –high with 77 RBI. See the offensive improvement, that’s a big plus from 2012. Also, with the departure of Josh Hamilton, the Rangers needed a left-handed bat in the lineup. Pierzynski bats left-handed and DH signing Lance Berkman is a switch-hitter…again more pluses.
Pierzynski downside is his age and attitude. Maybe?
Pierzynski did turn 36 this past December, but he has played in at least 128 games EVERY SINGLE SEASON since 2002. That is a definition of durability and I’m 100% onboard with the risk-reward that he brings.
As for attitude, ok I will admit, before this season I was not, and will still have some hesitation in regards to his attitude. He comes across as a bit harsh, punk, and borderline arrogant at times with players and especially media. However, read the articles and listen to the stories about Pierzynski’s attitude. It has almost always been directed toward his competition, only twice (that I can find) in his career has he had in-house quarrels or media-outburst. And those were in regards to Barry Bonds and Ozzie Guillen, in my book he gets a HUGE pass for both. I’ve read numerous reports from former teammates stating how much they enjoyed playing with him and loved his intensity. Fire and Intensity, remember September, exactly why he is a fit here.
Pierzynski’s attitude and on-field intensity could very well be exactly what the young Ranger pitchers need to elevate their games to the next level. From Darvish to Harrison, Ross to Perez, and likely the most beneficial, Holland and Feliz, Pierzynski will be an ideal on-the-field leader for these young players.
I was a catcher my entire life, so I’m always more crucial of the position and in the past have wanted to see the Rangers upgrade more than they have. After this offseason and going into Spring Training, I’m satisfied with the duo of backstops that will be in uniform and believe having both players will be a significant upgrade at the position when comparing years past.