We round out the position players around the division by looking at the catchers and bench players. I’ll combine the starting and backup catchers, since the backups generally gets a decent amount of playing time each year. The Bench category will include the other four reserves.
Catcher – PHI, ATL, WAS, NYM, MIA
Carlos Ruiz had a huge 2012 season, showing power and a line drive rate never seen in his career while playing his customary good defense. At 34 years old, his season will be delayed due to a 25-game amphetamine suspension. He doesn’t strike out much, though his walk rate dipped last year. If he retains some of that new-found power, he’ll be the best catcher in the division. Erik Kratz is a good backup, supplying plenty of power with a 45% CS rate last season.
Brian McCann is a big wildcard in the Braves lineup, hoping a now-repaired shoulder was the basis of last year’s struggles. He maintained his good plate discipline and HR power, but doubles have been fading away for a few years now. If he recovers from some poor BABIP luck, he should be as good as Ruiz. Gerald Laird is a prototypical backup catcher, solid behind the plate but below average at the plate.
Wilson Ramos is coming off a torn ACL during the summer, so he may not get much more than 400 PA. Amazingly his plate disciplined has greatly progressed since reaching the big leagues, and he’s starting to show good power. An average-hitting, average-fielding catcher is a nice asset. Kurt Suzuki has fallen from the future behind the plate in Oakland to prototype backup catcher.
John Buck brings his powers and strikeouts to New York, keeping the seat warm for top prospect Travis D’Arnaud. His defense is below average, posting some poor CS rates in his career. Anthony Recker should be the backup with a similar skillset as Buck.
Rob Brantly looks to be thrust into the starting spot in Miami, as the 23-year-old looks to build on a nice 2012 debut. It looks unsustainable, as he never walked and rarely showed the power he did last year. He has a decent arm but seems to need a lot of work on receiving. Jeff Mathis somehow gets another guaranteed roster spot as the backup, a decent defender but horrible at the plate.
Bench – WAS, PHI, ATL, NYM, MIA
The Nationals pretty easily put away this category, as Tyler Moore‘s right-handed power bat is probably the best bench bat in the division. Chad Tracy is a solid left-handed bat with no particular strength. Roger Bernadina is a good athlete with some offensive flashes, able to steal bases. Steve Lombardozzi makes a lot of contact and plays many positions.
The Phillies have some flux in the outfield, making their bench rating a bit tougher. It looks like Laynce Nix will primarily come off the bench, hitting righties hard. John Mayberry is a very versatile player, though his plate discipline is holding back a starting opportunity. Kevin Frandsen is a high-contact hitter who can play second or third base. The weak spot is the backup SS, as Freddy Galvis and Yuniesky Betancourt are the two “top” candidates, neither one deserving of a roster spot.
The Braves have a severely diminished bench, as the loser of the Chris Johnson/Juan Francisco battle for third will likely end up as the best bat on the bench. Reed Johnson is a useful outfielder, though his plate discipline is horrifying. Jordan Schafer and Jose Constanza vie for the backup CF spot, neither one expected to do much with the bat. Paul Janish should be a bit better offensively than last year, though his infield defense is as good as anyone.
The Mets have their own vacant OF spot, so the projected winner leaves Collin Cowgill and Jordany Valdespin on the bench. Cowgill is a righty who hit in the minors until last year, while Valdespin suddenly found his power stroke, but is very raw on both sides of the ball. Justin Turner is a reliable 2B/3B, putting up near-average numbers the past couple years. It’s another very weak backup SS battle, as former Brave Brandon Hicks battles Brian Bixler for a spot on the roster.
Though they are last here, the Marlins’ bench isn’t that bad. The loser of the Chris Coghlan/Placido Polanco 3B spot is a nice bench piece. Greg Dobbs can hit a righty alright, though he has no value defensively. Matt Downs is another non-SS infielder with some offensive potential. Gorkys Hernandez is a speed demon with almost no other value.