The veteran will depart A's camp on Feb. 27 to play for Team Israel in Seoul, South Korea, and will be busy before and after the tournament trying to make his mark on his new team. The former Red Sox prospect, who was a sixth-round pick in 2008 out of Yale, has hit only .198 over 134 major league games in stints with Boston, the Orioles and Braves. However, Oakland is reportedly impressed with his ability to handle pitchers, and he also comes to the Bay Area on the recommendation of former A's and current Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis, who was familiar with Lavarnway from his time in the Boston organization. Manager Bob Melvin has described Lavarnway as a possible "late bloomer" from his observations thus far, and he could certainly carve a out a spot for himself on the major league roster considering the club's relative dearth of right-handed backstop depth behind Josh Phegley. "It seemed like there would be an opportunity here," he said, "and that's all I can ask for at this point in my career - for someone to believe in me and give me a chance to play up to my potential."
Collins, the White Sox's fourth-ranked prospect according to RotoWire, says he uses those scouting assessments as fuel to improve as a catcher. The White Sox also have acknowledged the need to develop his defensive skills, having him primarily focus on that area of the game during the Arizona Fall League. There's a lot on a young catcher's plate -- blocking balls, calling pitches, controlling baserunners, framing pitches -- those are the areas Collins needs to develop over the next few seasons ahead of his 2019 ETA.
The Astros are hoping Keuchel and McCann are the battery come Opening Day, so it was encouraging to hear Keuchel talking about a comfort level with Houston's new catcher. McCann's been around and understands what it takes for a catcher to become acquainted with a bunch of new starters. The 12-year veteran has caught 1,372 games since his debut in 2005, so he's learned some about the catcher-pitcher relationship. He also brings a power bat to the position, having averaged 20 homers, 74 RBI and a .799 OPS. McCann will serve as Houston's primary catcher this season with Evan Gattis his backup.
Stubbs, the organization's seventh-ranked prospect according to RotoWire, is the catcher closest to the major leagues after reaching Double-A Corpus Christi in 2016. Between High-A Lancaster and his time with the Double-A Hooks, he slashed /304/.391/.469/.860 and was actually better after leaving the hitter-smooching High-A California League. The Astros want to see the slight-framed catcher bulk up to better handle the rigors of catching long term. He'll reach Triple-A this season and is on schedule for MLB in 2018 or 2019.
Manager Terry Francona made it clear on Thursday morning that there will be no competition between Perez and Gomes for the primary job behind the plate. The skipper added that he'll look for opportunities to work Perez into the mix as often as possible. Even as the backup, the 28-year-old should see a fair amount of innings. His competitor Gomes has played in less than 100 games in four of his five professional seasons, and he hit a career-low .167 in 251 at-bats last year. If he struggles early, or suffers another injury, Perez, who's already a decent fantasy asset in deep leagues, becomes an immediate option across most formats.
The 26-year-old spent the past two seasons with the Blue Jays' Triple-A affiliate. In 248 plate appearances in 2016, Jimenez slashed .241/.290/.377 while hitting four home runs. He'll most likely serve as organizational catching depth for Texas this season.
It was thought that Martin Maldonado would see the majority of starts behind the dish when the club acquired him this offseason, and while that may end up happening, it appears Perez will get a chance to prove himself this spring. Neither option offers much from an offensive standpoint, so a timeshare would ultimately end what little fantasy value both catchers would have had if there was a full-time starter.
Initial thinking was that Maldonado would get the lion's share of starts behind the dish with his new club, but Scioscia may have other ideas regarding how he splits up starts behind the plate. He brought up a good point in that Maldonado has never caught 100 games in a season before. Scioscia even hinted at a potential 50-50 split in playing time between he and fellow catcher Carlos Perez. Neither catcher had much offensive value in the first place, but a timeshare would almost assuredly render both useless in even deep formats.
Reports earlier in the week suggested that Ramos wouldn't be ready to play at all until July, but the All Star backstop appears to be more optimistic than others in the organization. His timetable will likely become clearer as he progresses further in his rehab process, however, so only time will tell which timetable is more reasonable.
Joseph believes there were certain aspects of his swing that weren't allowing him to be successful. More specifically, the 30-year-old attributes last season's struggles an inability to consistently keep his bat in the zone. Joseph expanded, "Certain guys do certain things and really try to keep the bat in the zone as long as possible. I was in and out of the zone. And when you're in and out of the zone, you only have a really small margin of error." With Castillo headed to the WBC next month, Joseph will see plenty of at-bats in spring training to rehearse his new swing plane.