As a unit, Orioles catchers are slashing a paltry .210/.288/.267 on the plate with two residence runs, 11 RBI, and a .554 OPS in 2021. That’s tough. And their struggles behind the plate have been nicely documented, too.
Since beginning catcher Pedro Severino got here to Baltimore, he’s put up poor defensive numbers by FanGraphs’ Catcher Defense stat, with marks of -2.0 in 2019, -1.0 in 2020, and -1.9 to this point in 2021. The previous Washington Nationwide got here to city with a status as a defense-oriented catcher, however that profile has but to materialize. To date this yr, Severino has allowed 5 handed balls in 38 video games began and has solely thrown out 13% of base stealers.
Severino’s bat has been underwhelming, too. Offensively this yr, his .629 OPS and 77 OPS+ are backed by a .239/.312/.317 triple-slash line over the course of 142 at-bats.
The Birds did make a transfer on the tail finish of Might once they optioned struggling backup catcher Probability Sisco to Triple-A and chosen the contract of Austin Wynns. However that may’t be considered as greater than a short-term flier, contemplating that the 30-year-old Wynns has solely obtained sporadic taking part in time on the main league stage with the O’s lately, and he didn’t even advantage a call-up throughout final yr’s Covid-shortened season.
In restricted motion, Wynns’ protection hasn’t been as dangerous as Severino’s, however he additionally hasn’t registered a Catcher Protection mark above 0.2 at any level in his main league profession.
It’s a forgone conclusion that normal supervisor Mike Elias will resist the temptation to advertise Adley Rutschman to the majors this yr. Even if the younger catcher is tearing it up at Double-A Bowie proper now — in 108 at-bats he’s bought eight residence runs, 22 RBI, and a .296/.442/.565 batting line — there’s simply no purpose to start out his arbitration clock this season with the O’s taking part in as poorly as their report reveals.
The Orioles have some catchers at Norfolk which are having fun with various levels of success to this point in 2021. Moreover, none are at present on Baltimore’s 40-man roster and would subsequently require a corresponding transfer to be promoted. But when the Orioles’ brass will get fed up with watching their present catchers, we might see a number of of those guys on the massive league stage sooner or later this season.
Taking a look at Norfolk’s most skilled catching possibility, 31-year-old Taylor Davis has 20 video games of main league expertise, all of which got here with the Chicago Cubs between 2017 and 2019. In very restricted MLB motion, his defensive fWAR maxed out at 0.1 in 2017, and he owns a profession .222/.256/.333 slash line on the plate within the bigs.
Davis is hitting .294/.385/.382 for the Tides in the intervening time. However he’s began solely two video games at catcher this yr at Norfolk. So he’s unlikely to obtain appreciable taking part in time behind the plate with the O’s.
One other Norfolk catcher with main league expertise, 26-year-old Nick Ciuffo, has but to play a sport for the Tides this yr whereas recovering from a fractured hand. He’s anticipated to return in mid-June. Ciuffo was a 2013 first spherical decide of the Tampa Bay Rays, so he’s bought the pedigree. Nonetheless, in 50 main league plate appearances with the Rays from 2018-2019, Ciuffo hit simply .186/.250/.279. His profession minor league batting numbers aren’t a lot better at .239/.312/.317.
Nicely, it seems to be prefer it actually is Rutschman or bust for the O’s. Aside from one different younger catcher at Triple-A.
That individual is Brett Cumberland, who could not hit for a excessive batting common however occurs to be an on-base machine. It’s confirmed not solely by his numbers this yr — 14 walks in 118 plate appearances with a .269 common, which is nice for a .424 OBP — however in his profession minor league OBP of .380. Over the course of his five-year minor league profession, Cumberland has a .245 batting common and a .409 SLG.
The 25-year-old switch-hitting catcher got here to the Orioles from the Atlanta Braves as a part of the Kevin Gausman commerce again in 2018. Throughout three minor league ranges in 2019, Cumberland slashed .257/.404/.415, and it’d quickly be time to see what he can do on the subsequent stage.
Whereas the prevailing notion may be a complete lack of curiosity in who’s catching till Rutschman surfaces within the majors, it’s nonetheless laborious to observe sloppy protection and poor at-bats so incessantly from Orioles backstops. Because the season drags on, possibly somebody excessive up will get fed up sufficient to enact extra change. Are any of the aforementioned Triple-A guys the short-term reply? Most likely not. However what does the staff must lose by giving certainly one of them a bit taking part in time?