2012 has been an excellent season for catchers. Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, and A.J. Pierzynski are all having career years. Joe Mauer has been, well, Joe Mauer. Miguel Montero has been a consistent RBI threat. Even Ryan Doumit has been putting up respectable numbers while starting 44 games behind the plate to relieve Mauer.
So if catchers are taking the league by storm in 2012, who forgot to tell Matt Weiters and Carlos Santana?
With both players entering the game with a high levels of expectation, both were thought to be important pieces of their clubs’ offensive attacks, in addition to their day-to-day task of handling the pitching staffs. At 26-years-old, both Weiters and Santana should be coming into their primes. Yet, as we drift into the final stages of summer and the first days of fall, neither player has shown much in 2012 in the ways of development. In fact, both have regressed to a certain point.
Now in his fourth season, the 6’5″ Weiters is on pace for his second consecutive season with 20 or more home runs. With four more RBI, he will set a new career high. However, his .238 batting average will set a career low and, if he keeps his current pace in the strike-out department, Weiters will also pass his previous career-high of 95 set in 2010. Some of that would be forgivable had Weiters been making strides as a receiver, but he currently ranks 19th in baseball in fielding percentage for catchers.
On the other foot, we have Santana, a more diminutive catcher, who like his counterpart in Baltimore, has been known for some spectacular pop from behind the plate. In fact, Carlos Santana second to only Mike Napoli in 2011 in regards to home runs by a catcher. However, with the good has come the bad. Santana also struck out 133 times in 2011 while contributing a batting average of .239. Understandably, the Indians were looking for some improvement in 2012, yet Santana has seen a sizable dip in his home runs (13 in 2012) while raising his batting average marginally to .241.
Both players have put up solid WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numbers of 2.6 (Weiters) and 2.3 (Santana), but also trail the likes of Molina (5.4), Posey (5.3), Miguel Montero (4.1), Mauer (3.8), and Pierzynski (3.3) by a healthy margin. Only Brian McCann, Doumit, and Jesus Montero have contributed lower WAR figures as a qualifying catcher.
However, there has been a significant difference between these two catchers; their current trends.
Since the All-Star break, Santana has actually improved drastically. While his average is still just .275 since the break, his 8 home runs since the Mid-Summer Classic are second only to Posey and his 26 RBI are third to only Posey and Miguel Montero.
Weiters has done the exact opposite, seemingly being worn down by the long season. His .218 average since the break is 48th among catchers, while his .669 OPS ranks him just 43rd among backstops during that time.
Regardless, these are two catchers who at the prime of their careers are being counted on to take the next step. With the Orioles taking that step as a team, and the Indians flirting with doing so, it is only nature to expect the same out of their once touted prospects to do the same. With 2012 nearly in the books, it may be a bit much to ask either to go on a tear to close out the season.
However, 2013 will certainly be a year of discovery for both of these young backstops, one in which they choose to either become a player or continue to live off of hype.