When the Milwaukee Brewers avoided arbitration with Stephen Vogt, the catching situation appeared as a forgone conclusion. But apparently it is still up for grabs.
The only certainty so far is that Manny Pina is the starting catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. After trading Andrew Susac, things became even more clear. However, recent comments by manager Craig Counsell indicate another position battle to watch during Spring Training.
This situation just got a lot more interesting. Pina is breathing easy for now, but he still might need to fully earn the starting spot. But at this moment, he is does not need to think about making the Opening Day roster. So, the question becomes, who will join him?
Stephen Vogt’s Case
The Milwaukee Brewers snagged Stephen Vogt off waivers from Oakland, and he responded by hitting .254. The 33 year old backstop also has two All-Star appearances on his resume. His defense, however, was not good in 2017.
Fangraphs grades the defensive showing from Vogt at negative six. In the season prior, his defense graded out at 3.4. If he can show defensive improvement, he will remain the favorite to back up Pina in Milwaukee.
One of the major issues with Vogt is that his caught stealing percentage is 13. That is not good. His offensive output from the catcher position might be enough to carry him, but it is clear the Milwaukee Brewers want his defense to speak for itself in a better way than it did in 2017.
Jeff Bandy’s Case
If defense is the ticket, Jeff Bandy might win out. The Milwaukee Brewers traded for the catcher during the 2016 offseason, giving up Martin Maldonado and Drew Gagnon. His offense is not nearly as good as Vogt, but he could fight his way to the Opening Day roster.
Last season, in 169 at bats, Bandy hit just .207. His career mark is better, but not by much. In 70 games playing for the Angels in 2016, his defensive grade was above seven. In his limited time for the Brewers last season he his caught stealing percentage sat at 17.
He just seems like a long shot for the roster at this point. But he is out of minor league options, which complicates the situation. Bandy is a good defensive catcher, and that is what will earn him the spot. If not, he might be on another team next season, should they grab him off of waivers.
Who Gets The Spot?
It has to be Vogt. For one thing his a much more proven player. Another factor to look at is that his contract. It is doubtful that the team avoided arbitration to have him catch in the minors. Losing Bandy is going to have to be a calculated risk at this point.
There is little doubt that Pina will start the year. But if he struggles, then Vogt is the more comfortable option behind the plate. He has shown in the past his defense can hold up, and he can still find that again.
Regardless, this is a battle to watch during Spring Training. It will be hard to pay enough attention to the backup catcher slot with the outfield logjam on the roster, but it will be going on. Every player at camp wants a coveted roster spot with the Milwaukee Brewers.