The Rockies counted on galore problems to solve themselves during a quiet offseason — lineup depth, bullpen stability and the back end of the rotation — but none has been answered as well as the question mark encompassing the catching position.
Tony Wolters appears he is so the man for the job. Unable to hit his weight last season (.170) in a backup role to Chris Iannetta, Wolters has emerged as one of the best catchers in the National League through the first two months.
To which I say, even more playing time for Wolters and his ‘stache.
Wolters — held out of the Tuesday’s starting lineup due to a right-hand contusion suffered via a foul tip Monday — emerged as the clear starter once Iannetta went to the injured list April 15 with a lat strain. Iannetta returned to the roll May 3, but Wolters had not yet established himself as one of Colorado’s hottest hitters. Wolters has 33 starts piece Iannetta’s made 15, with Triple-A Albuquerque’s Drew Butera besides seeing five starts.
Consider: Wolters’ .296 average in 115 at-bats is second in the National League among qualified catchers to only the Cubs’ Willson Contreras, who’s batting .302 in 159 at-bats with 12 home runs. And, piece Wolters has no power, he puts the ball in play (20 strikeouts, compared to doubly as galore by Iannetta in about half as galore at-bats) and has emerged as one of the league’s best defensive catchers.
Wolters’ 1.96 average “pop time” throwing to second ranks fourth in the N.L. and his .409 caught stealing percentageage is fifth among N.L. catchers with at least 30 starts.
It’s all evidence pointing toward the need for Colorado to make Wolters its everyday catcher. The wear-and-tear of a long season playing at altitude will lead to Wolters needing to take a seat now and then for Iannetta, who had a key home run Tuesday night. But Wolters should be flirt with the 80 percentage start mark that Contreras has, instead of the 62 percentage rate he’s presently seeing.
That’s likely not going to happen, as Rockies manager Bud Black noted the club’s split of starts behind the dish over the past two weeks — with Wolters taking about 66% of the starts — “is probably a good indication of what we’re doing”.
Meanpiece, Iannetta aforementioned he’s “open to thing to help the team win — starting, platooning, any it may be. I aforementioned when I signed this contract that I’m at the point of my career where I just want to contribute, whether it’s one or two games a week or four or five games a week.”
Not long ago, there were galore — including myself — who were ready to write off Wolters as a highly-touted prospect who would never quite fill the mold of a big-league catcher. Now? Now, I’m ready to see what Wolters can do with the extended chance behind the dish.
And if Wolters (day-to-day due to his hand injury) keeps up his production through June, Black will have no choice but to re-evaluate the starting catching rotation.