Can Robinson Chirinos Be the Answer for the Rays at Catcher?

By David Hill

In a vacuum, the idea that a 28 year old player that has exactly 20 games of major league experience under his belt could be an answer to any problem other than as a backup would likely be considered ludicrous. However, the Tampa Bay Rays catching situation is not like the problems most teams have when it comes to filling out their roster. Catcher has seemingly always been a bit of a black hole for the Rays, aside from the 2008 season when Dioner Navarro became the only Rays catcher to ever make an All-Star team.

Yet, perhaps it is just that he is such an unknown that would make Robinson Chirinos appealing. After watching Jose Molina, Jose Lobaton and Chris Gimenez struggle to the point that the Rays had the second lowest OPS, home runs, total bases, and RBI amongst American League catchers in 2012, it would seem that almost anyone could be an improvement.

At this point, the Rays likely know what Molina, Lobaton and Gimenez are – solid backup catchers who do not appear to be capable of producing as a starting catcher. Chirinos, meanwhile, likely has the most upside of any of the possible catchers on the roster. In 2010, he produced a batting line of .326/.416/.583 with 18 home runs and more walks than strikeouts. Prior to being called up to the Rays in 2011, he was batting .259/.343/.376 for Durham.

Chirinos also has another factor in his favor, as he has experience playing all over the infield in his minor league career. In fact, he has spent more time at second base than he has at catcher over his time in the minors. Having also played at short, third and a bit at first, Chirinos has the position flexibility that may be of interest to the Rays.

Although it is likely that he will open the season in Durham as he works back from a concussion that sidelined him for the entirety of the 2012 season, Chirinos could get a long look during Spring Training. Should he be able to locate his batting stroke and show that he is ready to once again contribute at the major league level, perhaps Robinson Chirinos will get a chance to be the answer to the Rays catching problems.