Three to watch in 2022: Catcher

It is early January and we still have no idea whether the season will start on time or whether we will see any baseball at all. So, with my “Eternal Optimist” cap on, here are three catchers that I am intrigued to watch this year.

The breakout: Austin Nola

With Victor Caratini and Jorge Alfaro on the roster, the San Diego Padres have three catchers vying for playing time, but everything points towards Nola getting the biggest share.

A late developer, Nola debuted in the majors as a 29-year-old in 2019. Although he might not have the power of a Salvador Perez, Gary Sanchez or Will Smith, Aaron’s older brother offers an understated level of production.

Willson Contreras115
Austin Nola114
Buster Posey113
J.T. Realmuto110
Selected catchers. Minimum 500pa (2019-2021)

With the Padres expecting to push the Dodgers and Giants for the NL West title again, a lot will be asked of Nola’s game-calling skills, as well as chipping in with the bat.

The veteran: Tucker Barnhart

I hope the former Reds’ catcher is not offended by the veteran tag, considering he is one year younger than Nola. Barnhart has played more than four times as many games as the Padres’ catcher, and is a veteran in the position in experience if not age.

After eight years in Cincinnati, where he won two Gold Gloves, Tucker embarks on a new challenge with Detroit. The young, exciting Tigers rotation can only benefit from Barnhart’s exceptional skills behind the plate.

The rookie: Adley Rutschman

In 2007, the Orioles took a catcher (Matt Wieters) with the fifth overall pick. To grasp how highly-regarded he was, MLB ranked Wieters as the second overall prospect before he debuted in 2009. By comparison, Buster Posey was down in 19th. Wieters was a no-risk prospect.

There appears the same degree of confidence in Rutschman, the first overall pick from 2019. I particularly enjoyed the revelation that the only thing he isn’t good at is… texting

Rutschman hit 23 homers in 123 games between Double-A and Triple-A last season, with .899 OPS. He oozes effortless power, which, coupled with an on-base percentage in the region of .400 OBP, means the 23-year-old will be box office entertainment.

His promotion, which will be the biggest day for years for many Orioles fans, will signal the transition of Baltimore into a franchise with ambition. I can’t wait to watch him in major-league action.

If his knees hold up and he avoids too many concussions, we could be at the start of a Hall of Fame career… although that has been said about too many catchers before.

Is there a particular catcher you are looking forward to watching in 2022? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter @BatFlips_Nerds

Photo by Denis Poroy

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