Tyler Flowers is finally free.
The 27-year old catcher, who has been blocked by A.J. Pierzynski over the last few years,will finally get the number-one gig to call his own with the Chicago White Sox in 2013. How will he fare?
Well, if the small sample sizes that we’ve seen Flowers in over the last couple of years are indication, White Sox fans can probably look forward to a regular power display from the backstop in the coming season. Yes, I realize that Pierzynski hit 27 homers in 2012, but that was likely an aberration bolstered by a career-high 18.6 % HR/FB rate that A.J. has never came close to seeing in his previous seasons.
In short, the former White Sox catcher’s show of fireworks last year was not indicative of the power he has.
Flowers, on the other hand, has power in spades. It was that power that made him one of the league’s top 100 prospects in 2010 according to Baseball America, the same publication that ranked him the best power hitter in the White Sox organization.
Though there has been ups and downs since truly arrived in the big leagues in 2011, the power has remained a constant. Flowers hit 12 homers over the sporadic 282 PA he collected over the last two years, good enough for a 23 home run pace if you extrapolate that to 550 PA. It’s a number he should be able to reach, as back Hector Gimenez is unlikely to take any serious playing time away – at least in 2013, anyway.
With a full season of at bats, Flowers will have more opportunities to make adjustments, and it would not be surprising to see the power numbers come at a higher pace.
The new catcher for the White Sox should also provide a boost in defense, as Flowers has throw out batters at a 28.8% rate so far in his young career, compared to Pierzynski’s 24.3 over his career.
That, though, is where the favourable comparisons will end. Flowers will have the number-one job next season, but to hang on to it like Pierzynski did, he’ll have to keep his strikeouts seriously in check going forward.
Sure, he was never the most patient swinger in the minors, but a 36.6% strikeout rate like the one he had in 2012 is going to keep his OBP down below .300, and no amount of power is going to make that a viable long-term solution.
In spite of that significant flaw, Flowers was a 1.2 fWAR player for the White Sox last season because of the power and defense he brings to the table.
If he can keep the whiffs from spiraling out of control, and his batting average closer to .250 than the Mendoza line, the 27-year old could easily be a 2.5+ fWAR player in his first full season behind the plate.