Bobby Wilson signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees, leaving Chris Iannetta, Hank Conger and John Hester as the only catchers on the Angels’ 40-man roster. Who will back up Iannetta? Will they sign a veteran backup like Southern California native Matt Treanor? These are two of the key questions facing a team with a loaded starting lineup and several options for filling out its bench.
Iannetta’s first season in the American League was really a tale of two seasons. In August and September, he batted .260/.337/.407 with six home runs. Prior to that, he hit .197/.321/.380, interrupted by a two-and-a-half month stint on the disabled list with a fractured wrist. He’s the unquestioned starter, but the Angels need to see more of the guy they saw in August and September.
Is the switch-hitting 25-year-old ready to become a major-league backup? If so, the timing couldn’t be better. There isn’t much potential below Conger on this depth chart. Hester is five years older and has never been more than an average hitter in the minors, while Conger has never batted below .290 in a full minor-league season. He’ll get a chance in spring to show that he is ready to fulfill his promise as a former first-round pick.
Hester’s 2012 batting (.217 BA) and fielding (27 percent caught stealing rate) numbers aren’t much to look at — and those were in Triple-A. His major-league experience consists of 92 games, mostly as a third-string catcher. The Angels would probably prefer he remain in Salt Lake in 2013 and battle some of the catchers listed below for playing time.
Luke Carlin (NRI)
A 32-year-old veteran, Carlin’s career looks a lot like Hester’s on paper. He was granted free agency last October after two years in the Indians’ organization, and signed a minor-league deal with the Angels in November. A good candidate to start at Salt Lake.
Carlos Ramirez (NRI)
A 34th-round draft pick by the Angels in 2009, Ramirez was the primary catcher at Double-A Arkansas last year, hitting .204/.312/.276.
Jett Bandy (NRI)
Bandy, a 41st-round draft pick by the Angels in 2008, was the primary catcher at Single-A Inland Empire in 2012. He batted .247 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs and could see a promotion to Double-A Arkansas in 2013.
Zach Wright (NRI)
Wright, 23, batted .268/.385/.419 at Single-A Cedar Rapids after being drafted by the Angels in the 12th round last year. This is the first look at him in a spring training camp of any sort.