With full squad workouts beginning today and all players expected in camp (though DH Kendrys Morales may be a little late), it is a great time to look at some of the battles that may be going on this spring. Over the next seven days, I will look at the seven areas where I believe there will be battles for spots this spring. Today, we start with the backup catcher.
Everyone knows who the KC Royals starting catcher will be when the 2016 season opens on April 3rd against the NY Mets in a World Series rematch. Barring injury, Salvador Perez will be behind the plate for the Royals just about every day.
Though manager Ned Yost hasn’t done a good job of resting Perez over the last few seasons, you have to have a backup.
The Royals have two veteran backups on their 40-man roster and I highly doubt either one would take an assignment to Triple-A when spring training ends. So who will stick around?
While the Royals invited three more catchers to big league camp (maybe even just signed Australian Allan de San Miguel), they are mostly in camp to catch all those bullpen sessions (there are 31 pitchers in camp).
The Royals traded for Drew Butera during the 2015 season and he ended up with the World Series ball in his glove when Wade Davis struck out Wilmer Flores to set off the Game 5 clinching celebration. Butera probably has a little edge because he is familiar with the pitchers and has been with the team.
However, he has never hit above .198 in six big league seasons, which is exactly what he hit in 45 games with the Royals. Of his 17 hits, four went for extra bases, but he struck out 24 times. Defensively, Butera made three errors, had one passed ball, and threw out six of 13 base stealers.
The newcomer is Tony Cruz, who the Royals acquired this offseason from St. Louis. He had been the long-time backup to Yadier Molina with the Cardinals, so he knows the gig.
Cruz hit .204 in 69 games with the Cardinals in 2015 with seven doubles, a triple, and two home runs. He did strike out 32 times. Defensively, he did not commit an error (he has just four in five big league seasons), had one passed ball (only 11 in his career), but only threw out three of 20 base stealers.
This decision will probably come down to Yost’s preference and whoever looks most comfortable calling a game with the pitching staff.
My pick: Cruz