Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud missed the first five games of the season as a precaution, with symptoms of the coronavirus. Thankfully, it turned out to be just a strain of the cold, and the two were back with the team at the start of the Braves first homestand. You’d think a lengthy layoff with a shortened offseason followed by some extra rest because of a virus would be enough to force any player into an early-season funk. But that hasn’t been the case for Atlanta’s catching duo.
Through one-third of this shortened schedule, Travis d’Arnaud has been the most valuable find of the 2020 free agent class. He’s played in ten games and boasts a .350 average, with a couple of homers and 11 RBIs — good for a .957 OPS. It’s a small sample size, but it’s easy to tell just how much of an upgrade he is over Brian McCann, and the Braves have him locked in for 2021 as well.
Even though he’s been a punching bag for the Braves fane base (including myself), Flowers is off to an equally hot start. There’s no shame in giving credit where it is due; Flowers is one of the players that has picked up the slack while Acuña, Albies, and Freeman have not been their usual selves, hitting .375 with a 1.233 OPS in six games. Again, it’s a minuscule sample size, but he is one of the reasons the Braves have been able to right the ship despite all the injuries and slow starts.
The depth of Atlanta’s catching staff goes further than just those two, though. When d’Arnaud and Flowers were out, Alex Jackson and William Contreras more than did their part.
Jackson struggled a bit with the stick, but he did pick up his first big-league hit, and it was an extra-base knock at that. The pitching staff and Brian Snitker also praised the way he handled calling the game behind the plate.
Contreras thrived in all areas, especially for someone that had not played a game above the AA level until this year. He appeared in four games, starting in two, and had four hits in ten at-bats (.400 average), one of which was a clutch double in extra innings that drove in a run in his first major league plate appearance.
Catcher is a position that most teams forfeit offensively. Their primary concern is finding a player that can make a pitching staff feel comfortable and throw out a runner here and there. Offense is secondary, which is why having a catcher that can swing the bat makes them that much more valuable. Right now, the Braves catching duo can hold a candle to pretty much any team in the league, and their future looks just as bright with prospects like Williams Contreras and former first-round pick Shea Langeliers in the fold.
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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