Across Five Springs: Opening Day Catchers
2015-2016 Opening Day Starter: Derek Norris
Norris was acquired from the Athletics during the 2014-2015 offseason where the Padres “won the offseason”. He was coming off a career year and an All Star appearance. Norris was brought in to replace Yasmani Grandal who was sent to LA in the Matt Kemp deal. In 2015 he put up respectable numbers behind the dish with a .709 OPS and 2.4 bWAR. Unfortunately, 2016 was a different story; he struggled mightily with the bat. He only managed to put up a paltry .583 OPS and .4 bWAR although a below average BABIP portended some bad luck. In two short years the All Star had become a potential DFA candidate. In December 2016 Norris was sent to the Nationals, who had originally drafted him, in exchange for pitching prospect Pedro Avila. Norris has been out of baseball since the end of the 2017 season.
2017-2019 Opening Day Starter: Austin Hedges
Hedges supplanted Norris as the main battery mate for the staff in 2017. His glove always was his calling card but glimpses of a passable bat kept him from being removed from the starting role. Hedges is probably the most divisive player on the Padres squad, especially in the Padres twitter community. He plays Gold Glove caliber defense but on the offensive side of the ball things have been unbearable at times. He put up a 69 WRC+ in 2017, 90 WRC+ in 2018, and a dismal 47 WRC+ in 2019. His defensive metrics show him to be among the top catchers in DRS and framing. The drastic difference between offense and defense has frustrated the club and kept the Padres looking for another long-term solution.
2020 Opening Day
The low offensive output by Hedges has given Francisco Mejia a strong shot at taking over the lion’s share of plate appearance in 2020. Mejia has been a work in progress behind the dish but the prospect of a computerized or computer-assisted strike zone has made marginal defenders with big bats more valuable. Hedges will have a high floor because of the defense but his value to the club is waning with two years of arbitration left. The only other catcher on the 40 man roster is Luis Torrens. The 2016 Rule V draftee spent the whole season on the big league squad in 2017 so the Padres could retain him. He has since climbed his way back up the minors to be a viable backup and came up for a cup of coffee with the big league club in 2019.
TKF contributor Chris Yumen. Follow on Twitter @CySouthbay