Finding Value: Eric Fryer
by, 11-29-2013 at 05:47 PM (894 Views)
There has been a lot of talk about the Twins going after a catcher to stabilize the position, now that Joe Mauer has moved to first base. Suggestions have been made that we should sign a catcher like A.J. Pierzynski or Dioner Navarro to fill the role until Josmil Pinto is ready. Others have suggested that while Pinto had a nice September, he's far from a sure thing, and upgrading the position with a guy like Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be ideal due to his combination of pitch framing and power.
The other suggestion I've seen tossed around is trading for the, said to be available, Ryan Hanigan. A favorite in the sabermetric community, Hanigan finally got his chance at age 29 to be a mainstay on the Reds roster. Since then Hanigan has shown the ability to be a game changing defensive backstop. He controls the running game, blocks pitches very well, and is highly regarded as a pitch framer. However, what seperates Hanigan from other defensive minded catchers is the fact that he's not embarassing with the bat. He has a career wRC+ of 90 which would be right about league average for catchers in 2013. Most of his offensive value comes from his career .359 OBP, due to his lack of power. Hanigan will be entering his age 33 season with one year of team control left. After an injury riddled, down 2013 his value may be low so he shouldn't be too expensive to acquire.
However, what if I told you I found a comparable player who is still in his prime, with six years of team control and makes the league minimum. What if I also told you that he was already on the 40 man roster?
Eric Fryer is entering his age 28 season and like Hanigan in 2009, has spent 7 years in the minors. Also like Hanigan, Fryer is highly regarded for his defensive abilities, along with his ability to handle a pitching staff. Fryer is extremely athletic for a catcher which helps him with receiving and blocking pitches. He also supplies an above average arm. In the 101 2/3 innings that he's been behind the plate in the majors, Fryer has thrown out 50% of attempted base stealers and has allowed 0 passed balls for a DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) of +3. I understand it is a small sample size, but it's the only sample we have up to this point. Fortunately it supports the reports of Fryer being a good defensive catcher.
As I mentioned, what seperates Hanigan is his bat. So I wanted to compare their minor league offensive stats.
Hanigan Fryer PA 2221 2081 BA .294 .267 OBP .382 .358 SLG .371 .404 OPS .753 .762 ISO .077 .137 BB% 11.3% 11.1% K% 11.5% 17.8% SB/CS 14/12 54/12
As you can see, they provided a similar amount of value as offensive players. Hanigan's contact rate helped his batting average, but Fryer makes up for it with his significant edge in ISO. They both have always shown great plate discipline with above average walk rates. The one thing that stands out is the baserunning. Catchers are known for clogging the basepaths, but with Fryer's athleticism, he has the ability to provide positive value on the bases.
Backup catchers are never sexy, but as David Ross showed in the world series, they can have a great deal of value. The Reds gave a 29 year old Ryan Hanigan a chance and he rewarded them with 7.8 WAR over the next four years. So before we look for the first free agent to sign, maybe we should give Eric Fryer a chance. Just something to think about.