We’ve asked a lot of questions so far this offseason, and here’s another one that’s important to the Angels’ chances; can catcher Carlos Perez bounce back from a disappointing season to seize the starting job? Perez was acquired along with pitcher Nick Tropeano from the Houston Astros for catcher Hank Conger, (that trade should be considered a huge win, even in light of Tropeano’s injury and Perez’s bad year,) and Perez emerged to put up a slash line of .250/.299/.346 with four home runs and stellar defense, along with a knack for coming up in the clutch.
Those numbers are nothing to write home about, but from a rookie catcher who wasn’t very highly regarded and could field the position as well as Perez could, it raised hopes and expectations that Perez could step in at catcher full time.
Instead, Perez regressed so badly at the plate that he ended up being demoted, finishing with an abysmal .209/.244/.325 slash line. Even though he only played a half a season, however, Perez showed enough with his glove to earn a Gold Glove nomination, and will once again be given an opportunity to become the starting catcher. That responsibility currently, (tentatively,) belongs to new addition Martin Maldonado, another great fielder who struggles to contribute anything with the bat.
If Perez can offer anything offensively, he’ll take over those starting duties easily, earning the lion’s share of the starts. Easier said than done, though; take a look at that slash line again. It’s really bad, and just looking at the final stats don’t fully tell the story of how miserable it was watching Perez flail helplessly at the plate. He showed flashes of being a hitter with an easy, compact swing capable of batting somewhere around .270 with a few home runs here and there in his rookie season.
A catcher who can offer that at the plate on top of running a pitching staff effectively and fielding the position well is an extremely valuable commodity that a lot of teams would kill for. Instead, the Angels have a massive question mark at the position offensively. For a team that might struggle to score runs outside of Mike Trout, the Angels are going to need all the help they can get at the bottom of the order.
Expectations are low for Perez this season, and rightfully so; he was never a well-regarded prospect, and his decent rookie season might actually be the best we ever get offensively from him. Until Perez shows he’s developed at all at the plate, expect Maldonado to receive the bulk of the starts at catcher, and don’t be surprised if top prospect Taylor Ward is called up sooner rather than later.