According to the Rays website, there are 5 players listed under catchers but there are only 2 spots for catcher. Nevin Ashley & Jose Lobaton are minor league catchers who catch during the spring training; the Real Battle is between John Jaso & Kelly Shoppach & Robinson Chirinos.
Robinson Chirinos: Chirinos is new to the Tampa Bay Rays and already has much expected of him since he came over via the Matt Garza trade. Chirinos’ resume boast Best Defensive Catch in the Chicago Cubs by Baseball America twice. Defense is VERY important since Jaso is considered an “offense” catcher- which means he witnessed several balls get away from him. Thus, it is important to have a catcher one can count on in close games. In 2010 in the minors, he was batting .326. Guess he has some offense too.
John Jaso: Jaso has been a Family Favorite since my mother and little sister were able to get his autograph years ago during a Spring Training game. Jaso was called up from the minors last year to replace Shoppach while he was recovery from an injury. Jaso ended up being the Zobrist of 2010- a player who appeared out of nowhere with outstanding talent. Though Jaso’s defense was not perfect, his offense made him #1 catcher. In 2010, his batting average was .261, one of the highest on the team. Jaso also gained a few votes in the A.L. Rookie of the Year running.
Kelly Shopach: Shoppach was Cleveland’s amazing catcher who emerged in 2008 after Victor Martinez went down. Shoppach batted .272 and had a OPS of .828. Then in 2009, his batting average dropped to .214. He then signed a 2 yr, $5.55 mil contract with the Rays. His batting average was able to drop lower in 2010 when it reached .196 (Carlos Pena boasted the same batting average, but at least there was a 33% of walking and 33% of hitting a homerun). To this day I still wonder why Maddon put Shoppach in against Lee & the Rangers in the Play Offs *flashbacks to Shoppach throwing the ball 3 feet above Longoria’s mitt.*
So who is going to be catching for the Rays this year?????
John Jaso batted against righties while Kelly Shoppach batted against lefties (batted .261 against lefties, but then again he used to be catcher for C.C. Sabathia) so one has to wonder if Maddon is going to keep the same deal (Maddon being loyal will probably will). It would be nice to have a catcher who can bat no matter who is pitching (hence no switching around catchers when the bull pen is called up). I have yet seen Robinson Chirinos play, but I’ll be rooting for him to make #2 since it will make the Matt Garza trader worthwhile. Shoppach has emerged in spring training with a toner body, but Pat Burrel also had a crappy 1st year with the Rays, lost weight during the winter, and remained crappy in his 2nd year. At least Shoppach did not cost $12 mil but only $5 mil. If any coach is looking for a player to lose weight and strike out, I’m willing to be that player for only 1 million!!!