Normally I would write up the obvious backup catcher then do an “other catching possibilities” post, but the Braves have done nothing to establish the backup catcher, so everybody goes in one entry.
Really, this shouldn’t be the case, as Brayan Pena hasn’t done anything to play himself out of the job and is out of options, so the Braves will almost certainly lose him if he isn’t on the major league roster. Pena didn’t do a whole lot in brief playing time last year, but wasn’t completely embarrassing, and has obviously conquered the minor leagues. He hit .301/.341/.423 for Richmond last year, and has hit over .300 for four seasons in a row of minor league play, with a career .314/.360/.405 line.
Pena has picked up a reputation as a good defensive catcher somewhere, probably because he hasn’t hit a whole lot in his major league trials and any catcher who doesn’t hit will get the good glove rep. He is agile behind the plate and has yet to commit an error in 40 major league games, and committed only one as a catcher last year in the minors, but didn’t throw well in his first major league outings. Last year, he threw out half of opposing baserunners, four of eight. He has lost most of his speed, meaning that the Braves’ efforts to make a super-utilityman out of him probably came too late. He played first, third, and the outfield corners at times for Richmond, none of them apparently too well, judging from the stats.
The Braves, meanwhile, seem to like Clint Sammons an awful lot, though I’m not sure why. Sammons hit okay in the low minors, not as well as Pena. He didn’t do well in Myrtle Beach on his first try, which hardly makes him unique; he played better there last season but was overmatched in Mississippi. The Braves called him up to the big club anyway, where he had two hits in three at-bats, starting the last game of the season. I don’t get the attraction, but I haven’t seen much of him; maybe he has great defensive skills or something.
The Braves brought Abe Miller back on a minor league deal after he wasn’t totally awful as the backup after Saltalamacchia was traded and Pena was hurt/banished. Corky hit .259/.310/.444, but in only 29 PA. Alternating with Pena behind the plate in Richmond, he hit .210 but with a .342 OBP. You can do worse.
For instance, J.C. Boscan, who wasn’t any good when he was called “Jean” and isn’t any better now. The Braves signed Boscan back in 1997, out of Venezuela, giving him (as I recall) a whole lot of money, and he has never ever hit, not even a little, and never will. His best year in the minor leagues was 2004, when he hit .246/.345/.313 for Greenville and Richmond. The Braves let him go after 2005, but after two years of his usual embarrassing play with the fine, fine organizations of the Brewers and Reds, the Braves brought him back. He presumably has no chance, but you can never tell. I understand he’s good on defense, or is supposed to be. I guess he’d have to be.
Last, and the opposite of least, Javy Lopez. Javy didn’t play in 2007, and didn’t play well in 2006, but hey, it’s Javy! I don’t see any reason not to give him a shot. I might be upset if I thought he would be taking Pena’s job, but I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the best we could reasonably hope for is Miller. He might outhit Miller, who can tell? It’s a better idea than bringing back Eddie Perez was.
Brayan Pena Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
Clint Sammons Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
Corky Miller Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
J.C. Boscan Statistics (Minor Leagues) – Baseball-Reference.com
Javy Lopez Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com