2011 was another year of Bobby Wilson living third catcher limbo with the Angels, but with Jeff Mathis gone Wilson finally looks to have a chance at securing the back-up catcher’s job all for himself. Can he finally win the job and prove that the Halos made the right move in stashing him away for two years?
2011 Stats: 111 AB, .189 AVG, .252 OBP, .288 SLG, 5 R, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 0 SB, 2 CS, 16 K
2012 ZiPS Projections: 184 AB, .245 AVG, .296 OBP, .353 SLG, 15 R, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 0 SB, 1 CS, 34 K
2012 Bill James Projections: 120 AB, .250 AVG, .308 OBP, .367 SLG, 11 R, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 18 K
2012 CAIRO Projections: 123 AB, .226 AVG, .285 OBP, .359 SLG, 12 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB, 1 CS, 24 K
2012 PECOTA Projections: 121 PA, .234 AVG, .288 OBP, .339 SLG, 12 R, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 23 K
2012 MWaH Projections*: 225 AB, .238 AVG, .292 OBP, .360 SLG, 15 R, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 0 SB, 1 CS, 44 K
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2011 in Review: Bobby Wilson had a shot at winning the back-up catcher’s spot entering training camp last season. Spoiler alert: he didn’t win. Due to a combination of Hank Conger’s impressive training camp and Wilson being too similar to Mathis (which is a damning statement unto itself), Wilson found himself back in his old role of a little-used third catcher. Even with Hank Conger’s up-and-mostly-down season and Jeff Mathis’ general nightmarish awfulness, Wilson managed to get all of 47 at-bats through the month of July.
Eventually, Wilson worked his way into Scioscia’s good graces, and by that I mean he was elevated up the depth chart due to attrition and collected 64 at-bats over the remainder of the season. His defense was the reason he got to stick around and back his way into some playing time, which is no surprise because his defensive reputation is the reason that the Angels have been reluctant to cut him loose despite not having a role readily available for him. That’s a good thing for Bobby because his offensive performance last season wasn’t doing him any favors.
With a .189/.252/.288 slash line, you almost couldn’t tell Wilson apart from Jeff Mathis, though in Wilson’s defense he received such sporadic playing time in 2011 (and 2010 too) that he never got a fair shake at establishing himself with the bat. Wilson never profiled as much of an offensive contributor, but almost no hitter of any caliber can perform up to their peak standard when they are playing once a week at best. If there is one point in Wilson’s favor it is that he had a .725 OPS in the month of August, the month in which he received a season-high 40 at-bats, suggesting that he could be a solid back-up catcher if given regular playing time. Of course, that is such a small sample size that it could be randomness as well.
Three Lingering Questions for 2012:
- Is Wilson really going to be the back-up catcher? He profiles as a better complement to Chris Iannetta, so this seems like a great fit for him, but he has been dinged up so far this spring. He also has to worry about Hank Conger stealing the job once again. At some point, being out of options isn’t going to be enough to merit keeping him around, especially now that the Angels don’t appear to have the roster flexibility to carry three catchers again this year.
- Could Bobby be a threat to Chris Iannetta as the team’s starter? It seems improbably given that the Angels specifically targeted Iannetta and have been talking him up, but with Iannetta being far from a sure thing to actually produce with the bat outside of Coors Field, Mike Scioscia and his infamous commitment to catcher defense could prompt him to promote Wilson to starter since he knows he can count on Bobby’s glove. That is assuming that Jerry Dipoto doesn’t somehow intervene to prevent such an arrangement.
- Might the Angels trade him away instead? A handful of teams are looking for young. cheap back-up catcher types, which just so happens to match Wilson to a tee. With Conger waiting in the wings, the Halos have a chance to flip Wilson for a potentially useful asset. But is it worth it since such a move could stunt Conger’s development and leave the Angels unnervingly thin at the catcher position?
What to Expect in 2012: By sheer virtue of the fact that I am writing this profile, I am tacitly admitting that Wilson is almost dead certain to be the Angels back-up catcher to start 2012. I’d like to say that he is going to earn the job strictly on his own merits, but we all know that isn’t true. The main reason is that the Angels are committed to Chris Iannetta, as such he will be getting the vast majority of the starts at catcher if only to prove one way or another that he can hit outside of Coors. Because of this, the best thing for Hank conger is to report to Salt Lake where he can play regularly and continue working on his receiving skills. By default, that leaves the out-of-options Wilson as the back-up catcher where he once again won’t be racking up the at-bats. That probably isn’t the way he wants to win the job, but hey, it’s a living.
The good news is that Wilson’s playing time shouldn’t be as sporadic as in previous seasons, meaning he might actually be able to establish something of a rhythm at the plate. What that will translate to remains to be seen. In the minors, Bobby was able to maintain a good batting average with his worst mark being a .268 at low-A Cedar Rapids. When it comes to patience and power though, Wilson doesn’t rate out so well. He doesn’t seem to be allergic to walks like Mathis was, so that’s a good sign, but he also struggled to show much pop even in the uber-hitter-friendly PCL. Add it all up and he’ll probably find a way to hit just well enough to be league average MLB back-up catcher, which would still be an upgrade over having Jeff Mathis as your full-time starter. BONUS!
As for the defensive side of things, Wilson is essentially a safety net. He won’t get the same ball-slobbering accolades that Scioscia gave Mathis, but Wilson is fundamentally sound catching the ball and has shown himself to be a good thrower who avoids errors. That’s really all you can ask for from a back-up, right? As a starter though, that’s not nearly good enough. It didn’t stop Scioscia from elevating Mathis up the depth chart all those years, but with a new front office looking over his shoulder, it seems unlikely that Scioscia will be permitted to make the same mistake with Wilson unless Iannetta totally flames out. Even then, I would expect Hank Conger to get called up and leapfrog Wilson. That isn’t what Wilson wants to hear, but it is what Angel fans want to hear and that’s what really matters, right?