Thursday, November 21, 2013

George Kottaras an Interesting Option

The Red Sox have not been making a lot of noise on the catcher front and while Jarrod Saltalamacchia has not signed anywhere yet he's surely testing the waters.  The team will being playing David Ross in a split with whatever catcher they sign and that means the team would probably prefer a left handed bat to pair with Ross from the right side demanding less playing time.

Now this name is not flashy and I'm sure there would be plenty of hand wringing in the Boston media if the 2014 Boston Red Sox started with Ross and George Kottaras behind the plate on Opening Day, but I think this is a pretty defensible move.

The first point is he's a lefty bat while many of the catchers on the market this offseason hit from the right side.  The team would like to play Ross a bit more as his work with the staff in the playoffs was proof alone how good he is.  Signing a bigger name makes it harder to get him in on a consistent basis.  On the other hand someone like Kottaras almost assures a solid split of playing time.

For those who remember Kottaras on his first run through Boston you might remember him touted for his plate discipline.  In his 2008 season at Triple-A he walked 14 percent of the time and kept his strikeouts at a reasonable rate of 23 percent of at bats.  He's no slouch for power with 22 homers that season and a .465 SLG.  Now that was five years ago and at Triple-A and since then he's not really shown that ability or truly been given the chance.

To be fair to the teams playing him he hasn't stolen the job either.  His batting average has been terrible and that is in large part to his strike outs, but also his BABIP has averaged .246 over 820 PA.  That is in part to a low line drive rate of 17 percent and plenty of ground balls by a catcher.  The good news is even with the poor average he gets on base with an OBP of .324 in his career and that has gotten better in 2012 and 2013 even with dreadful BABIP those seasons of .237 and .245.

Looking at early projections we get a look from Steamer projections at only 24 games played with a fairly mediocre .219/.333/.379 for a stat line.  A quick look at Ross according to Steamer says we would get a lot of the same with .231/.305/.383.

So would you really want that for 2014? No, but they would likely platoon in a lefty/righty split and that's where it looks a bit better.  In his career Kottaras has hit .220/.319/.430 against lefties righties for a .326 wOBA or right around league average at the catcher position or think Salvador Perez for only 200 or so PA.  His average and OBP aren't better, but he is slugging much better against lefties.

On the other hand Ross is hitting .246/.325/.442 against right left handers and a wOBA of .332.   He did even better this past season with a .350 wOBA against lefties.  This would make Ross the number one catcher, but not overload his number of games played.  The team would get an average to above average offensive catcher combined and defensively Ross has graded very well on Fangraphs defense for catchers and Kottaras has been solid.

Unlike signing a front line catcher the team gets a cheap short term option and the ability to even give an opportunity to Ryan Lavarnway if he proves himself in camp or at Pawtucket.  This would only be an option if Salty signs elsewhere and to avoid signing someone like A.J. Pierzynski.


  1. "In his career Kottaras has hit .220/.319/.430 against lefties for a .326 wOBA "
    "On the other hand Ross is hitting .246/.325/.442 against right handers and a wOBA of .332. "

    Shouldn't the Kotteras numbers before right handers and the Ross numbers against lefties?

    1. You're correct. The numbers are right and I made a switch between the two.