Last August, thanks to a slew of injuries, the Nationals had started five different players at catcher: Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Carlos Maldonado, Sandy Leon, and Jhonatan Solano. As the team geared up for the playoffs, GM Mike Rizzo decided to acquire catcher Kurt Suzuki from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for catching prospect David Freitas. Suzuki was considered one of the best young catchers in baseball at the age of 24 in 2008, when he put up 4.4 bWAR, but steadily decreased from there, and was hitting only .218 through 75 games with the Athletics in 2012. He was rejuvenated with the Nats, however, hitting .267/.321/.404 in 43 games to go along with stellar defense. Now he is poised to battle it out with Wilson Ramos for the starting job. If the change of scenery allows Suzuki to continue hitting well, he should lock down the job. However, our projections are less optimistic:
March 05, 2013; Viera, FL, USA; Washington Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki (left) beats the throw to Houston Astros first baseman Brett Wallace (right) for an infield hit during a spring training game at Space Coast Stadium. Washington defeated Houston 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
ZiPS: 483 AB, .263/.308/.400, 62 RBI, 54 RS, 3 SB, 12 HR
MLB.com: 377 AB, .236/.271/.318, 39 RBI, 33 RS, 1 SB, 5 HR
CBSSports: 360 AB, .253/.310/.386, 49 RBI, 44 RS, 1 SB, 10 HR
ESPN Fantasy: 447 AB, .255/.308/.378, 56 RBI, 49 RS, 2 SB, 11 HR
Averages: 417 AB, .252/.299/.371, 52 RBI, 45 RS, 2 SB, 10 HR
Obviously, those numbers don’t pop out at you, except maybe in how poor they are. A sub-.300 OBP will not help you get a starting job on any MLB team, but even these underwhelming stats represent a major improvement from his totals last season. However, they are also a regression from the numbers he put up with the Nationals, and just below his career averages. While aiming for the middle is a tried-and-true prediction tactic, our official DoD projection will be a little more optimistic. Suzuki actually hit .301 with a .837 batting average in September and October of last season, and while that screams “small sample size”, it’s no coincidence that he did significantly better with the Nats. However, the overall projection for him is tricky. I expect Wilson Ramos to claim the starting job, despite a good performance from Suzuki. However, if Ramos should struggle or suffer another injury, Suzuki would be a decent fantasy option if he can carry over his momentum from 2012. If the two catchers split playing time, Suzuki will be all but useless. On the Nats, his most valuable asset may be his veteran presence and game-calling, supplemented by his past experience with Gio Gonzalez and Dan Haren in Oakland, and he will continue to leave his mark on the team, regardless of playing time.