Written by CharmCityHokie
Spring Training is here, pitchers and catchers have reported, as well as about half the positional roster. As with every Spring Training, there are spots to fight for, and candidates striving to fill those positions. Now this might not be the most exciting storyline of the return of Orioles baseball, but we can only argue about the topic all off season for so long. So without further adieu lets get into my favorite of all Spring Training battles...the backup catcher slot.
The Hometown Hero: Steve Clevenger (http://www.baseball-reference.com/mi...d=cleven001ste)
Hailing from Pigtown, Clevenger was the throw in to the Scott Feldman deal that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to the Cubs last summer. The 27 year old lefty swinger out of Mt. Saint Joe's has a .311 career batting AVG over more than 590 minor league games, with a clean .800 OPS to match over the same minor league tenure. He has seen the majority of his career behind the dish, but has also seen significant time in the infield, splitting time between 1B, 2B and little at 3B. Defensive skills are the watermark this Spring Training when it comes to back up catcher according to Buck and John Russell (http://www.masnsports.com/school_of_...her-notes.html) and Clevenger has caught 27% of attempted base stealers over his minor league career. That's alright, not great, but for a backup catcher who might play once a week, its not a number that I'd be concerned about. For reference sake, Major League average caught stealing rate by catchers hovers around 26%. Defensive stats are hard to quantify in any league, and even harder in the minors, but from his 57 games in the bigs (not all at catcher), Clevenger grades out about average in terms of dWAR (BBRef and FanGraphs) and well below average in terms of CS% at 13%, but again, its a small sample size. The major projected stats simulators seem to like him for around an 86 wRC+ with positive numbers on the defensive side (http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx...542&position=C). It also doesnt hurt that he's a LHB and hits right handed pitching better than he does that opposite, given Wieters struggles against RHP.
The Bull of the Bronx: Johnny Monell (http://www.baseball-reference.com/pl...oneljo01.shtml)
Sweeping in from the SanFran Giants from a winter cash considerations trade, by way of his hometown, the Bronx, New York, New York, we have the contender, Johnny Monell. Monell sports significantly less major league service time than Clevenger. He is also 27, and also a lefty swinger who shows off an .808 minor league OPS over 641 games played. He's seen a little bit of time at first base, but has stayed mostly behind the plate for his career, sporting a 29% CS rate in the MiLB. The projective simulators like him for positive defense and an 84 OPS+ (http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx...783&position=C). So basically we've got a fair fight between Clevenger and Monell.
There are a few other guys who will have eyes on them in ST too. My personal favorite, baseball rat Caleb Joseph; Michael Olhman will surely be scrutinized for potential future use, given his 40-man addition; David Freitas was acquired as the PTBNL in the Jim Johnson deal and has some decent minor league numbers but he's not on the 40 so probably isn't in this fight. I see it coming down to Clevenger and Monell.
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