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And why that is the best news of the spring so far.
Apologies for the delayed post, but you know what they say: When you're unexpectedly in Goodyear, Arizona without Internet access, you're unexpectedly in Goodyear, Arizona without Internet access.
But let's not argue about who screwed up a post at McCovey Chronicles right now. We could go back and forth on that all day. Today is a happy day, a day for celebration. For it seems like Hector Sanchez is not guaranteed a spot on the 25-man roster:
Could the backup catcher job become an open competition? Guillermo Quiroz appears to have solid receiving skills, and you can’t sneeze at the way Tyler La Torre is playing for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. (La Torre caught nine different pitchers over nine innings in the loss to Team USA last week.)
"We’ve got to keep it competitive," Bochy said. "That’s the best way to go. There’s no jobs given out here and these guys know it."
Somehow, I don't think that's entirely true. It's not like Chris Heston secretly gets excited when Matt Cain has a bad spring outing -- "So you're saying there's a chance?" -- so there are probably more than a few jobs given out, assuming the player puts forth the typical effort required to play a baseball game. But it's still somewhat news when it comes to Sanchez's spot being up for grabs.
There's probably a difference of opinion, though, about why this is all so exciting. Every so often, I'm stuck in an elevator, and I whip out my phone and read the comments here. I know what some of you think about Hector Sanchez -- that he "has trouble receiving baseballs," "is an undisciplined hitter," and "plays too damned much at Brandon Belt's expense." And after a few hours watching video, talking to scouts, and studying his FanGraphs page today, you know, I'm thinking that all might be true. He's a raw catcher and hitter, and he gets more at-bats than you'd like your backup catcher to get.
But the difference between Sanchez and Guillermo Quiroz over a full season can't be more than a half-win. Maybe a win. And that's assuming that Quiroz is six times the defender, because he's unlikely to post a .280/.295/.390 line like Sanchez did last year. I would think Sanchez would be the superior hitter next year, actually. And seeing as a backup catcher -- even on the Giants -- is probably good for 400 or 500 innings, it's easy to overstate the negative impact of Sanchez's defense.
Arguing about backup catchers is like arguing about which player is on the cover of the media guide. The only time the backup catchers matter is when you're expecting an MVP-caliber player, and you end up with 400 at-bats from Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside. If that happens again, the Giants will finish in sixth place, so let's not beat each other up over it. When it comes to 2013, I'm okay with Hector Sanchez as a backup catcher.
But when it comes to 2014, 2015, and 2016, I would prefer a more polished Sanchez -- the kind of player that some people fooled themselves into thinking he already was last year. I haven't given up on the idea of Sanchez being a plus offensive catcher. There have been just 41 different catchers to post an OPS+ better than 90 before they were 23. Most of them you've heard of. Salvador Perez, Brian McCann, Joe Mauer, Jason Kendall, and Ivan Rodriguez were the last five. That's only slightly cherry-picked -- alright, more than slightly -- but Sanchez was better than you might think last year, especially after accounting for age.
And the receiving is rough, but we're comparing him to an unfair sampling of catchers. For the most part, it's exceptionally rare for any of us to watch a relatively inexperienced, 22-year-old catcher behind the plate. He isn't being compared to other 22-year-old catchers; he's being compared to Yadier Molina and Buster Posey, the latter of whom is perfect in every single way except for the part about him not returning my calls. Sanchez in two, three, or four years could be quite competent.
If the Giants were to send him down, it would almost be like gaining a prospect. Think about it -- Sanchez is a year younger than Gary Brown. He was a year younger last year than Posey was when he first came up (when Posey was supposedly not ready to catch the Giants' hard-throwing staff, mind you.) The odds of him ever learning how to hit are up for debate, but it's hard to imagine the odds not being better with him playing every day in Fresno.
So I'm in. I'm in Quiroz's quorner. Or La Torre's la team. Or even Monell's militia. I'm not sure how Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum would feel about it, but I think they have Stockholm Syndrome, so I'm not that worried. They'll snap out of it. And in a way, the Giants could trade a backup catcher for a prospect, of sorts. That's a deal you always make.