Who ya got: Anthony Recker or Taylor Teagarden?

Anthony ReckerWhen the Mets signed Taylor Teagarden to a minor league deal in early January, it was a move designed to do two things. First, it added depth to a position prone to wear and tear, and second it provided incentive for both Teagarden and Anthony Recker to compete for the backup catcher duties. Player competition happens on every club, but the worse the team is, the more likely it is that every job is up for grabs. The Mets have improved on that front despite a grueling decision to make about first base, another potential competition in center field, and if we ever get another shortstop, Ruben Tejada has at least earned the right to fight for the starting job. First base has been beaten to death, and shortstop is Tejada’s to lose at this point. One competition that doesn’t get much press is the one for backup catcher. Let’s take a look and see what these two guys are all about.

Recker played 50 games in 2013 for the Mets, and accumulated 151 PAs in the process. He had a .215/.280/.400 line with 17 runs, 7 doubles, 6 homers, and 19 RBI. His .185 ISO was fairly impressive for such limited time at the plate. Over the course of his minor and major league career, Recker has drawn walks at a 10.0% rate, but his strikeout rate of 32.5% last year was a symbol of a large problem. Despite having a good eye at the plate, Recker can’t make contact consistently enough to make that power translate for a full season.

FanGraphs doesn’t have a UZR or DRS for Recker, but his 21 CS% shows his lack of a great throwing arm, so most guys will be able to run on him. Having watched him play, Recker never showed he was particularly nimble or adept at blocking the plate, so he’s not a terrific receiver either. To sum him up, Recker is a poor defensive backup, who makes up for those inadequacies with his power ability.

Teagarden has had more experience at the major league level, but not by much. Early in his minor league career, Teagarden hit for a ton of power and had a high OBP. I couldn’t find any extensive injury history that would have derailed Teagarden’s career, but his numbers have taken a significant dive since those early days. In limited roles with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles his OBP and SLG have slid to the point where in 2013 he totaled .180 and .300 respectively. His K% is clearly a factor as it touches 35-40% far too often, and his walk rate, which when given PAs at Double-A or Triple-A was consistently in the 9-12% range, was a horrid 1.6% last year with Baltimore.

As with Recker, FanGraphs doesn’t have much defensive metric data on Teagarden. He doesn’t let as many passed balls go by as Recker, and he has a better CS%, so we can gather some basic information about his receiving ability from that.

It seems as though Recker and Teagarden have been in a similar boat over the course of their careers. Neither player has ever been the everyday guy, and therefore has never had consistent enough playing time. Such is the life of a backup catcher. Teagarden was in Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects prior to 2008 and 2009, and his early minor numbers show why. But when you only get 172 combined PAs between minor and majors over the last two seasons, showing what you can do becomes a lot harder.

Since the Oliver predictions base everyone on 600 PAs, let’s see how they compare Teagarden and Recker. Teagarden they have going .193/.268/.331 with 16 home runs, 56 runs, 60 RBI and a 0.7 WAR. Recker gets a slightly more respectable .213/.282/.325 with 18 home runs, 62 runs, 65 RBI and a 2.6 WAR. Neither is going to get those 600 PAs though, so the question is who is going to better serve the role of the backup for the Mets.

Much had been made of Travis d’Arnaud’s bat as a prospect, but in 2013 Met fans saw very good receiving and very little offensive output. Recker and Teagarden’s fates depend on knowing what kind of player d’Arnaud is going to be moving forward. Usually a backup catcher serves a role that the primary catcher doesn’t. If the main guy can hit but can’t catch, then the backup’s job is to provide better defense for substitutions or to catch pitchers will less control. If the main man can’t hit, then it’s always nice to have a backup who can show a little power when he gets his turn during the week.

If d’Arnaud shows he has the ability to both hit and field well, then the decision becomes more about what you want, than what you need. If d’Arnaud carries last year’s offensive struggles over to the spring, it’s likely that Recker will win the backup job and provide that little extra pop, and possibly even steal significant time behind the plate. If d’Arnaud proves he can hit but struggles to handle pitchers the way he did in 2013, maybe Teagarden is the better choice, as he seems to be the stronger defender.

There is very little likelihood that the Mets will carry three catchers on the roster, so this spring will be important for all three men. The starting job is d’Arnaud’s, but whoever wins the backup role is going to be pivotal to this team in their own right. So the question is, who ya got?

8 comments for “Who ya got: Anthony Recker or Taylor Teagarden?

  1. Joe Vasile
    February 4, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Where we sit right now, I look at this as a “devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know” situation. All things being equal in spring training, I take Recker just because he is more familiar with the pitching staff and there’s something to be said for roster continuity. Neither one of these guys is going to make or break the roster, so I don’t see a reason to shake things up when Recker was perfectly serviceable in 2013 with the bat.

  2. amazin
    February 4, 2014 at 10:36 am

    Some speculation that Recker might get a shot at the platoon first base job. He had 6 homers and 19 rbi in only 150 ABs. Not bad, not bad at all. Satin is the front runner but very little power. Flores they don’t seem to think can hit enough to play first. Recker probably can’t either but he brings a little competition to the table.

  3. DD
    February 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Disagree with your conclusion that Anthony Recker is a bad defensive catcher.

    Baseball-Reference has Mets pitcher’s ERA at 3.28 when Recker was behind the plate, 3.78 total for Mets pitchers. Recker is credited with 35 starts; by my own count, done in a hurry I admit, the Mets went 21-14 in those starts.

    That’ s not a bad catcher, any more than Mike Piazza was a bad catcher. Perhaps it shows a catcher who doesn’t rate well on the throwing stats, but that is hardly the main thing, is it? Winning, that’s the main thing, and Recker contributed to winning by all indications that matter to me.

    I am hoping that Recker keeps his job

    • Name
      February 4, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Those ERA’s are more impressive when you take into account that he didn’t catch a single pitch from Matt Harvey.

  4. Chris F
    February 4, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    That this is the kind of discussion that makes a difference on the Mets is indication enough that another rough year awaits us.

    Recker v Teagarden? Who cares. If d’Arnaud doesnt have a break through season with 140 games behind the plate, then we got a much bigger illness than who is playing back up catcher.

  5. February 4, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    “Hey, what about me?” said Juan Centeno, member of the 40-man roster & the best defensive catcher of the backup options. FWIW, I think that Recker will retain the job, with Centeno & the non-roster Teagarden splitting the duties in Vegas to start the year. Can’t wait ’til this stuff actually starts happening, though. I’m done with winter. So very done.

  6. February 4, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    FWIW, I don’t think UZR is really a metric used to measure catcher defense. Fangraphs does have catcher specific stats that we can analyze for catchers: Stolen Base Runs Saved (rSB) and Passed Pitch Runs (RPP).

    rSB measures how many runs a catcher saved the team by throwing out runners and preventing steals, while RPP measures how many runs a catcher saves by blocking the plate. Both are compared against league average.

    In 2013 Recker had a rSB of -2, meaning his was 2 runs below average. He was 0.6 above average in RPP. Teagarden had a rSB of 0 and an RPP of -1.

  7. Scott Ferguson
    February 5, 2014 at 11:06 am

    They profile the same as hitters, so it’s about defense to me. If the pitchers are comfortable with Teagarden and he shows better defense, then it should be his job.

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