The catcher position was arguably the biggest question mark going into the 2017 season. The team searched for answers after the retirement of A.J. Pierzynski, and while they had had an incumbent option on the team in Tyler Flowers, they searched for another veteran to pair with the local product. Kurt Suzuki ended up being that guy. Both players have played huge roles and have had career numbers in 2017.
Tyler Flowers can attribute his career year to changing his approach at the plate. At first glance, one would assume Flowers is a power hitter due to his sheer massive size. However, switching to a contact-first approach has turned Flowers into a regular after spending most of his career as a backup in Chicago. To date, he has posted the highest batting average of his career (.286) as well as the highest OPS (.823). While Flowers is one of the worst catchers at throwing out baserunners, he is among one of the best pitch framers in baseball, which creates room for error for the Braves creme of the crop prospects heading up the pipeline. The team will pick up Flowers option for the 2018 season.
Veteran Kurt Suzuki has found his power stroke in Atlanta. At age 33, in his eleventh major league season, he has posted his career high in home runs with 16. While Flowers has been great, one could make the argument that Suzuki was better. Suzuki is a former All-Star, but this has been by far his best offensive season. He is a very underrated asset to the team, and they were wise enough to reach a one-year, $3.5 million extension to remain with the team through next season.
While Brian Snitker has taken some heat from the media due to his questionable in-game decision making when it comes to the bullpen, you have to tip the cap to him on how he handled the backstop situation. Sure, the players deserve the credit, but Snitker had some type of sick sense as to when he should play each guy. Add in working with a knuckleballer and a bunch of young arms in the rotation, his management behind the plate was great. Suzuki signing an extension before a decision has officially been made on Snitker publicly could indicate that he will be retained, but it is still too early to tell.
One common misconception of the Braves farm system is that they have no talent at catcher. This is not true, as it is coming in waves, but is still far off. One prospect that many Braves fans are not familiar with yet is William Contreras, who posted better numbers than big brother superstar Willson Contreras did at the same level. Alex Jackson had a great comeback year and benefitted from a change of scenery, and the power-hitting catcher could get a taste of the big leagues as soon as next season. He is a former top pick who has turned things around and has star potential. Not only have the Braves locked down a productive duo for next season, they have bridged the gap to the future at the catcher position.
Before I wrap up this article, I want to put in perspective just how good these two guys have been. This is Flowers and Suzuki’s combined stat line: .280 average, 29 home runs and 94 RBI. Not bad production when considering catcher is the weakest offensive position in the game. On top of that, Coppy and Co. are getting it for nickels on the dime.