Los Angeles Angels: Are There Internal Options to Replace Chris Iannetta?

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterMay 11, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 11: Chris Iannetta #17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits an RBI double against the Minnesota Twins during the seventh inning on April 11, 2012 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Angels 6-5. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels received the unfortunate news on Thursday that catcher Chris Iannetta will likely miss six-to-eight weeks following surgery on his fractured right wrist.

The injury is another blow to a scuffling Angels offense that is currently 11th in the American League with a .675 OPS. Although he was batting only .197 through his first 66 at-bats to begin the season, Iannetta is far more valuable than his surface-level stats indicate.

As Paul Swydan of FanGraphs pointed out earlier today:

…since his full-season Major League debut in 2007, he is hitting .232. But in that timespan, he has been the 13th-most valuable catcher by WAR, despite the fact that he is just one of two catchers in that top 15 with less than 500 games played (Matt Wieters being the other). He’s not an outstanding defender, but he did set a career-best last season in caught-stealing percentage. If you look solely at offense, though, Iannetta stands out even more—his .345 wOBA since 2007 is tied for seventh-best among qualified catchers.

While Iannetta is on the shelf, the Angels will have to primarily rely on backup catcher Bobby Wilson, who has posted a .522 OPS in 27 at-bats this season while appearing in 12 games.

Suffice it to say, Wilson is far from a tolerable option for the next six-to-eight weeks. So, do the Angels have anyone on the farm who can improve the team’s catching situation in the interim?

Hank Conger would normally be the go-to replacement for the ailing Iannetta. However, he has been sidelined as well since April 21 with a sprained elbow, and there’s no definite timetable for his return.

Beyond Conger, the Angels’ minor-league catching situation is painfully bleak.

At Triple-A they have both Robinzon Diaz and John Hester, though both have offered minimal production so far this season.

Diaz, a 28-year-old journeyman who last played in the majors with Pittsburgh in 2009, is currently batting .220/.258/.424 through 59 at-bats.

Hester, also 28, batted .211/.292/.347 in his last big-league stint with the Diamondbacks in 2010, and is currently batting .222/.250/.407 in 27 at-bats at Salt Lake.

The only possible internal solution is Alberto Rosario, who is an excellent defensive catcher, but doesn’t offer much at the plate. Through 63 at-bats at Double-A Arkansas this season, the right-handed hitter is batting .222/.265/.333 with five extra-base hits and 12 strikeouts in 19 games.

Until Conger is fully healthy—which doesn’t seem to be anytime soon—I think Rosario may be the best option given his defensive prowess. Obviously none of these players will offer as much offensive production as Iannetta, so immediately the emphasis should turn to defense, where Rosario reigns supreme.

But who knows, with the rumor that the Angels are trying to unload outfielder Peter Bourjos to the Nationals, it’s possible that they could be hoping to land the Nats’ reserve backstop, Jesus Flores.