With A.J. Pierzynski signing with the Texas Rangers this week, the Chicago White Sox now find themselves without the catcher that played at least 125 games in each of his eight seasons with the team. But the team, barring a free agent signing of their own or a trade, appears comfortable with giving Tyler Flowers a shot to be their their starting catcher next season.
Flowers hit .213 with seven home runs and 13 RBI over 153 plate appearances last season, and he has obviously not seen much playing time due to how durable Pierzynski has been. In parts of four seasons at the major league level, in 108 games played, Flowers has a .205 batting average with 12 home runs and 29 RBI over 317 plate appearances. His minor league track record is more extensive, with a slash-line (average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) of .275/.391/.484 with 80 home runs and 315 RBI in over 2,200 plate appearances.
Flowers will turn 27 in January, which is widely considered an age where hitters reach their peak. He has been ranked in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects twice (2009, 2010), so the White Sox brass may simply want to find out if he can make the move from highly regarded prospect to major league regular next season. Flowers did suffer a hairline fracture in his left hand after being hit by a pitch late last season, but he had a cast removed in November and there is no concern about his health heading toward spring training.
From a fantasy perspective, Flowers is an intriguing option in AL-only leagues right now due to how difficult it can be to find competent catchers. If the White Sox make a move to add a catcher, and they have had some reported interest in Jarrod Saltalamacchia of the Boston Red Sox, that would change things and make the team’s entire catching situation one to avoid on draft day in mixed leagues. But for now Flowers is a player worth keeping an eye on, as the confluence of increased playing time and being an optimal age makes a breakout a real possibility in 2013.