Chris Snyder was batting .212 with just four doubles at last year's All-Star
break, but manager Bob Melvin stuck with him. Snyder would go on to bat
.292 and slug .503 in the second half.
"We have two very good young catchers,
and both of them probably could be starting somewhere," praised Melvin during
the winter meetings. "Snyder did obviously quite a bit last year to thrust himself into
a starting role. Yet you don't want a Miguel Montero sitting around and getting
80 at-bats or 100 at-bats being strictly a backup."
"So we will mix-and-match with the group," he continued. "But I think
going in, you would have to consider Snyder the starter."
That decision goes far beyond overall offensive numbers. Montero
thrived in his reserve role, going 7-for-20 with three homers and seven RBI as a
pinch hitter last year.
Defensively, Snyder really separated himself from Montero, gunning down 35.8%
of would-be basestealers last year, while Montero managed just a 22.2% success
rate. Montero primarily caught Livan Hernandez, but also caught nine of
Micah Owings' games, as the two had worked together previously in the minor
leagues. In those nine games, Owings allowed opponents to hit .302 (.905
OPS) against him, while in the games he paired with Snyder, opponents hit just
.230 (.699 OPS) against the star rookie. Snyder also made just one error
on the year while Montero committed six in not even 60% of Snyder's playing
Clearly, Snyder is well ahead of Montero in terms of controlling the
running game, handling pitchers, and in general defensive fundamentals.
When I asked Bob Melvin why Montero served as Livo's personal catcher last year,
he explained that it was done in part to help Montero develop as a catcher.
"For a number of reasons," Melvin began. "One, early on it enabled Montero to know when he was going to play and get
some regular time.
Two, matching him up with Livan Hernandez, who is going to pitch his game,
enables him to learn from Livo, how he's going to pitch certain guys."
Montero should be comfortable enough to handle less structured usage this
season, and there's no shortage of intelligent pitchers on the Diamondbacks
staff who can help Montero with calling a game if he indeed still needs that
crutch. Snyder has always struggled against right-handed pitching, so a
more traditional platoon makes some sense. That would leave Montero
with more playing time than Snyder, however, which isn't going to benefit the
That's simply not going to happen, particularly with Montero's right index
finger still bothering him after breaking it in winter ball.
"I'm kind of worried now because it's been two months and it's still
bothering me," Montero admitted. "I thought it would be three or four weeks and
it's been eight weeks. It hasn't healed yet. I don't know what's going on. It's
something to worry about because a bone doesn't take that long to heal."
Prediction: Snyder will see at least as much action behind the dish as
last year, probably more. If the finger injury limits Montero's
effectiveness, don't be surprised to see Robby Hammock or Wilkin Castillo take
over as Snyder's primary backup this season. Jaime D'Antona, a corner
infielder who began learning the backstop position two years ago, would still
only be used as an emergency third catcher in the big leagues at this point.
Starts at catcher: Snyder 102, Montero 41, Castillo 14, Hammock 5
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