As the White Sox head into the winter following a 76-86 offseason, CSNChicago.com will examine the past, present and future of each position group at 35th and Shields. Next up is catching.
Depth chart (notable names)
Tyler Flowers: Arbitration eligible (4.184 major league service)
Geovany Soto: Free agent
Rob Brantly: Pre-arbitration eligible
Kevan Smith: Pre-arbitration eligible
What went right
Depending on which site you use, Flowers either tied for first with Francisco Cervelli or finished in the top three in pitching framing, which accounts for called strikes that weren’t. Statcorner.com notes that Flowers earned an average of 1.79 extra strikes per game for his pitchers, which along with solid game-calling skills speaks to why White Sox pitchers praise him ad nausea for his work behind the plate (Chris Sale spent several minutes praising Flowers as key to the operation at the All-Star Game and after every start).
[SOX IN REVIEW: Starting pitching]
Working with the pitchers, Flowers and Soto -- who stayed healthy all season -- also helped keep the opposition’s running game in check. The White Sox allowed 75 stolen bases, tied for 11th in the majors and below the league average of 83 1/2.
What went wrong
Even though his strikeout rate decreased by seven percent, Flowers’ production fell off from 2014 on a team starved for offense. His Weighted Runs Created dipped by 17 points to 78 while his OPS-plus dropped from 97 to 82,which was magnified because of the team’s production issues, particularly at the bottom of the lineup. Flowers hit .239/.295/.356 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 361 plate appearances after he had 15 homers and 50 RBIs in 442 PAs in 2014. Soto wasn’t any better, hitting .219/.301/.406 with nine homers in 210 PAs. Still, the team’s offensive woes at catcher were over-exaggerated as the club’s combined .656 OPS ranked 17th in the majors (yes, 13 teams were worse).
Also, the team’s 22 passed balls were tied for the second-most in the league, led by Flowers’ 15.
With Soto a free agent, the White Sox will likely seek an offensive upgrade behind the dish this offseason (as if that’s easy) because the system doesn’t seem close to producing an everyday option. The White Sox like both Smith and Brantly but are likelier to try to trade or sign someone to split the duties with Flowers --- or perhaps even make him the backup. Down on the farm, the White Sox like Brett Austin, but he must prove he can hit enough. Omar Narvaez hit enough at High-A but has to make strides behind the dish. Seby Zavala, a 2015-draftee out of San Diego State, hit a ton for the Arizona Rookie League champion club but is years away. The team also likes 17-year-old Jhoandro Alfaro, but he had plenty of hiccups in his first season of pro ball.