Wanna know the great thing about procrastination? Eight times out of ten, it pays off and at least part of your problem goes away. (Caveat: the other two times out of ten, that disgusting little fungus morphs into a flesh eating bacteria and gnaws away at a very personal area. So there are downsides too.) But in my case, I hit the (half) jackpot, because I drew the short straw to write about "catching depth," which meant a piece on Bobby Wilson AND Curt Casali, since we didn't know which one would make the roster. But I managed to put it off long enough so that we now know that Bobby did indeed make the team, and Curt is headed to Durham to get some much-needed everyday playing time. So it's down to just a Bobby Wilson preview. WooHoo!
Wanna know the other good thing about writing a preview about Bobby Wilson? You only have to pay attention to half his game. Because he only has half a game.
At The Dish
Bobby hasn't seen regular ML ABs since 2010-2012. This is what they looked like then, and what some of the projection systems peg him for now.
It will not be pretty. It will be less unpretty against LHP, but it will at no point look even mildly attractive.
Behind The Dish
This is why Wilson was brought in. But even here, because catcher defense is so hard to quantify, it's difficult to demonstrate his value without resorting to anecdotes and testimonials. But thanks to Matthew Carruth over at StatCorner, we do have some hard numbers out there that you don't have to pay a fortune to get to. Unfortunately for our little case study, the numbers don't quite match up with the glowing reports we've heard.
Again, these numbers are from three to five years ago. And they are really only measuring one aspect of catching: framing skills. And they aren't bad. They just aren't consistently off the charts.
In 2010, Wilson stole a good-but-not-great .65 strikes per game, placing him 27th out of 81 major league catchers who handled at least 1000 pitches. But in 2011, he was in the hole at -.3 strikes/game, dropping him all the way down to 45th of the 77 catchers. Then in 2012, he rebounded in a big way, stealing an impressive 1.08 strikes/game, 14th best out of 78 catchers.
Note: The numbers behind the BP paywall agree with Statcorner -- good-but-not great in 2010, below average in 2011, and very good in 2012. Their advanced blocking numbers also show him to be a very good pitch-blocker, and one of the best pitch-blockers in the league in 2012. - Ian
There are no good pics of framing. Dude is out though, so that's something, right? (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
And that's where our breadcrumb trail ends. After that, Wilson spent a year each in the Yankee and the Diamondback farm systems, and now he's here.
Now, is it a pretty good bet that the Rays have better intel than three-to-five-year-old data found for free on the internet? Proooooobably. And Ernesto Frieri sure seems to like throwing to him. And he gets the Tom Kotchman endorsement. Heck, he's even buddies with the guy he just beat out, so Bobby must be okay. Right?
What To Expect
After an exhaustive two hours of research, this is what you should expect from Bobby Wilson: Outs. Lots of outs. Whether he is at the plate or behind it, there will be outs. Which is not the worst thing in the world to get from your backup catcher. I know that the ghost of Molina is the elephant in the room (no pun intend... oh, who am I kidding?), but the problem with Jose was how much we saw him. So if Rene Rivera is the real starter and this doesn't morph into some kind of catching platoon, a glove-only guy is just fine. Because if backup catchers could do it all they'd be starters somewhere. So enjoy the outs.