Even though Luke Maile only hit for a .146 AVG with the Blue Jays last season, he was still far and away the best of a whole slew of players that Toronto tried out in their attempt to find a suitable back-up catcher.
Something I learned last year about what I want in a back-up catcher, is that I’d rather have someone who’s strong defensively and a below average hitter, than a player who’s an OK hitter but weak on defense.
The Blue Jays learned how detrimental it can be when a catcher struggles to throw out runners. Not only did the opposition run at will last season against Miguel Montero, Rafael Lopez, and to a lesser extent Russell Martin, but it probably didn’t do much for Toronto’s pitchers knowing teams were running on them so effectively. Good defense does so much to instill confidence in a team, and no position more so than catcher helps boost a pitchers performance. Maile, with his ability to throw out runners on a regular basis (35%) and play solid defense, was exactly the kind of catcher to bring out the best in Toronto’s pitchers. Just take a look at the numbers below that show the IP, ERA, and opponents batting average (OBA) that Toronto pitchers had when pitching to Maile, Martin, Lopez, and Montero in 2017. When working with Maile, pitchers had an ERA almost a full run lower than the next best catcher.
As much as Maile contributes behind the plate, he still needs to work on doing more on offense or else Toronto is likely to continue testing out one back-up after another like they did in 2017. With a strong performance so far this spring, Maile is the front runner to be Toronto’s 2nd catcher to begin the season. That being said, if he wants to hold down that role for the entire season, he’ll need to hit a far cry better than what he did last year.
Maile understands the Blue Jays catching situation all too well. He knows it won’t be long before Danny Jansen or Reese McGuire are knocking on the door to get into the big leagues. Heck, they’re practically knocking already. And unlike Montero or Lopez, both Jansen and McGuire are every bit as good defensively as Maile. With their ability to hit as well, 2018 might just be Maile’s best opportunity to prove his worth in the majors before Toronto’s promising young crop of catching prospects are here to stay.