The Rays had a very interesting situation at catcher as they ended the 2010 season and begin preparing for 2011 season. Dioner Navarro started the season as the Rays catcher, but quickly lost his job to rookie of the year candidate John Jaso, who then lost some playing time to veteran Kelly Shoppach. In the playoffs, Navarro decided not to show up, Shoppach was the definition of terrible, and Jaso did not get the at-bats many thought he would late in the season. So what will self-proclaimed genius Joe Maddon do at catcher to start 2011, the answer is not that simple.
Navarro is gone, there is simply no way the Rays can bring him back. After choosing not to travel with the team once he was left off the playoff roster, the Rays have cut ties with the former catcher. Navarro could not hit this season and was average behind the plate as well (sent to the minors early in the year). He has not been the same since his lone All-Star season. Cutting Navarro is a good move for the organization (we don’t need another slow, below average hitter in the lineup).
John Jaso was one of the biggest surprises this season for the Rays. The left hander proved to be an incredible hitter, finishing the season hitting above .265 and improved every night behind the plate. He is still working on his defense, but has a solid arm. He is not a big power hitter, but is an above average hitter and is able to get on base safely. He is also a smart base runner as well. Being a catcher, he has a great understanding of pitchers and what they will do on the mound, so he is able to make his move and get to second easily without incredible speed. Jaso is going to be the Rays catcher of the future, there is no question about it, but Coach Maddon does not have great faith in him against left hand pitchers which leads me to the third and worst catcher, Shoppach.
Kelly Shoppach, where do I begin with his guy. Shoppach is simply bad, terrible, horrible, and every other word that describes the washed up catcher. When Shoppach signed in the off season from Cleveland (another piece of junk from Cleveland, just like Derek Shelton), I was wary of the signing and I was right. Shoppach was a terrible hitter, never hitting his own body weight in average, no power and terrible base running. Shoppach was also terrible behind the plate, making costly errors and showcasing a weaker arm than my grandma (he let Begnie Molina steal a base….enough said). Shoppach threw the game away in the ALDS to Texas and resembled Pat Burrell at the plate (harsh, but oh well). The sad stat is that Shoppach will be back next season (signed a two-year deal) and will probably take more bats away from Jaso.
So to start the 2011 season, expect to see Jaso behind the plate, but with Po-Boy Shoppach getting some spot starts an at-bats (wish it wasn’t true). The Rays will probably not bring up any prospects this season at catcher (unless there is an injury) and will hope Jaso progresses and Shoppach somehow finds a bat.