FanGraphs annual positional power rankings are back, and they’ve begun with the catchers, an area that was the Braves’ weakest link last season. A lot of it had to do with the injury to Travis d’Arnaud, but it also didn’t help that Atlanta had virtually no depth behind him. That’s not the case going into 2022, so as expected, FanGraphs projects the Braves’ catchers will produce much better this season, giving them a top-ten ranking across Major League Baseball.
Here’s what they had to say about the backstops in Atlanta:
Travis d’Arnaud struggled offensively in a 2021 season that was truncated by a torn thumb ligament, hitting just .220/.284/.388 in 60 games. William Contreras did an admirable job filling in given that he only had a little more than a half-season of experience in the high minors, but he’s better served getting 100 starts for Triple-A Gwinnett than backing up d’Arnaud.
The Braves are defending champions, and with d’Arnaud’s age and injury history, they were smart to upgrade their backup game. Manny Piña was an excellent timeshare catcher with the Brewers and he’ll continue that role in Atlanta. Combine his addition with the bounce-back the projections anticipate from d’Arnaud, and the Braves look solid here.
One thing about Alex Anthopoulos that I have become very appreciative of is how he responds to his mistakes. A couple of years ago, the Braves had one of the most inconsistent bullpens in the league. A primary reason for that was the lack of money spent on relievers. Anthopoulos since has gone away from that philosophy, and now the Braves have one of the most expensive bullpens in baseball.
Last year, the Braves essentially went into the season without a backup catcher — at least, not with one that had any experience. They paid the price, especially once d’Arnaud was forced to go to the 60-day IL. So what was Anthopoulos’ first signing of the offseason? Manny Pina, who was arguably the best catcher on the free-agent market. His presence gives the Braves the depth they desperately needed at the position, and he also allows William Contreras the proper time to develop in the minors.
Organizationally, losing Shea Langeliers may sting in the long term, but for the next few seasons, the combination of d’Arnaud, Pina, and Contreras should provide enough production to be considered a top-ten group in baseball.
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