Atlanta Braves Old / New Catcher Issues For 2016


First off, Atlanta Braves catcher A.J. Pierzynski celebrates his 39th birthday today…so Happy Birthday to him.  Secondly, our catcher turns 39-years-old today!

Pierzynksi is one of the oldest players in the MLB in 2016 (Bartolo Colon will be the oldest at 42-years-old) and will be the oldest catcher.  Catching in the MLB can be very grueling for anyone, especially someone late in their career.

Though he is well known for being the Chicago White Sox catcher, Pierzynski was actually drafted by Minnesota Twins in the 1994 MLB draft in the 3rd round.  He made his debut on September 9, 1998 with the Twins.  In 2002, he made the AL All-Star team as a member of the Twins.  During the offseason in 2003, the Twins traded Pierzynski to the San Francisco Giants for Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Boof Bonser…worked out pretty well for the Twins.

During the 2005 season, Pierzynski had a career-best 77 RBI with 28 doubles, 11 home runs and a .272 batting average with the Giants.  But he was criticized by teammates and often booed by fans.  He only threw out 23 percent of runners attempting to steal (15 of 66) and was charged with nine passed balls.  After the season, the he was eligible for arbitration and looking towards a $5 million deal for one year.  The Giants didn’t want to spend that much on him so the Pierzynski club asked to be released.  The Giants released Pierzynski on December December 16, 2004…bad decision.

January 6, 2005, the White Sox signed the then 28-year-old catcher.  With the Sox he went to another All-Star game in 2006 and won a World Series ring in 2005.  He played with the White Sox till 2012.

He spent 2013 with the Texas Rangers and 2014 with Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.  On January 7, 2015 the Braves signed Pierzynski at 38 years of age.  This past offseason the Braves signed the veteran catcher to a one year $3 million deal.

Here is a list of the ten oldest catchers to have played the game.  Pierzynski has a couple more years before he’ll be able to join this list.

CatcherBornLast GameYY-MM-DD
Deacon McGuire
Grover Hartley
Carlton Fisk
Jack Ryan
Merv Shea
Clyde Sukeforth
Rick Dempsey
Johnny Riddle
Bob Boone
Chief Zimmer

Luckily for the Braves and Pierzynski, they won’t count on him to catch on an everyday basis.  The Braves signed Tyler Flowers to a two year $5.3 million deal.  He will be 30-years-old in 2015 and he’s also another former Chicago White Sox catcher.  Flowers grew up in Marietta, Georgia and was drafted by the Braves in 2005 in the 33rd round.  The Braves traded him to the White Sox in 2008.

Splitting time with Christian Bethancourt in 2015, Pierzynski appeared in 113 games (107 games at the catcher position), had 407 at-bats and had 122 hits, while hitting .300.  He had nine home runs, with 49 RBI’s and scored 38 runs. Pierzynski also had an OBP of .339.

In 2015, Flowers played in 112 games (110 games at the catcher position), had 331 at-bats, had 79 hits, while having a .239 batting average.  He had nine home runs, with 39 RBI’s and scored 21 runs.  Flowers also had a .295 OBP.

So what’s all this mean?

We’ll definitely see these two guys sharing the catching duties in 2016 and possibly helping out specific pitchers.  Also, Fredi Gonzalez will most likely stick with the “hot” catcher.

Flowers is own for being a solid defensive catcher and his framing ability.  Pierzynski is more known for his hitting.

We can’t expect Pierzynski to have the season in 2016 like he had in 2015.  His stats will most likely dip and won’t play as much next season.  I can see Flowers taking this position and running with it.