Let’s begin our offseason with a look at where the A’s stand at each of their positions heading into next year.
With nine weeks remaining before the beginning of baseball’s winter meetings, we’ll split the roster up into exactly nine installments of this segment: catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, outfield, designated hitter, starting pitching and bullpen.
There may need to be some updates here and there if the front office gets busy early on; but ideally we’ll be able to use this as a starting point and reflect on whether or not the A’s are making positive steps in the right direction moving forward.
So without further ado, let’s get started and take a look first at the catching position in our system and how it performed at each level of the A’s organization.
By his own admission at various times during the year, Suzuki had a down season. Although actually it was his second down season in a row.
His batting average dipped to a career-low .237 and his on-base percentage was also a career-low .301. He showed decent power, though, posting his second-best season in terms of homers with 14.
Defensively, he posted a .993 fielding percentage behind just seven errors in 976 chances. He threw out just 28 percent of would-be base stealers, up from his previous two seasons, but still well below his career-best of 37 percent in 2008.
For as good as fans have believed Suzuki is defensively, though, FanGraphs.com has his defensive-runs-saved (DSR) at -3 for 2011.
Barring a trade, Suzuki will be back behind the dish as the starting catcher again in 2012. He is signed through 2013 with a team option for 2014.
The A’s and fans will be hoping he can bounce back and raise his batting average to around the .275 mark that he posted between 2008-2009.
Not only has Powell’s offensive production slipped in each of his three pro seasons, his playing time has also dropped each year.
He played in 46 games in 2009, 41 in 2010 and just 36 this season, thanks, in part, to a demotion to Triple-A in favor of Anthony Recker as the season wound down.
Powell batted just .171 with a single homer in his 2011 campaign.
He posted a .992 fielding percentage in his 254 chances behind the plate and threw out 36 percent of would-be base stealers. He posted the exact opposite DSR statistic than Suzuki at a positive-3 (runs saved).
It’s not exactly a secret that Powell’s value is his defense, and the pitching staff absolutely loves throwing to him; but he will need to make some major strides offensively in spring training if he is to retain his job in 2012.
Following a breakout season in Sacramento in which he batted .287 with 16 homers and 48 RBI, Recker finally earned his call up and made his big league debut for the A’s this season.
Although that experiment did not exactly land the added offensive punch the A’s had hoped for—he batted just .176 in 21 plate appearances—Recker should be given as a shot as the primary backup next season if he can outproduce Powell in the spring.
His minor league defensive stats this season were right in line with both Suzuki and Powell. He posted a .994 fielding percentage and threw out 25 percent of base stealers.
Josh Donaldson probably represents the biggest offensive threat behind the plate for the A’s. Unfortunately he also represents the biggest defensive liability of the A's four options mentioned so far.
Donaldson bounced around the diamond this season for the River Cats but still managed to find himself strapped into the catcher’s gear 71 times.
He put together a .261 batting average with 17 homers and 70 RBI for Sacramento. His fielding stats as a catcher included a .977 fielding percentage and he threw out 39 percent of would-be base stealers, the best rate of any of the four catchers mentioned.
Donaldson will be another strong contender for the backup role in 2012 if he can work on his defense to bring his fielding percentage in line with the other contenders and maintain his offensive superiority.
Short of a trade for a Major League-ready catching prospect such as Jesus Montero (which has been rumored), there is no need to make any drastic moves at this position.
The strength of our team is the pitching staff, and the current crop of backstops are familiar with their abilities and know how to bring out the best in them.
Bringing in a prospect like Montero would require trading one of our top pitchers such as Trevor Cahill or Gio Gonzalez, a price that not many A's fans would welcome at this point in the team's development.
Next Sunday we’ll take a look at how Brandon Allen, Chris Carter, Daric Barton and the rest of the A’s system stack up at first base heading into 2012.
This article was originally featured on BaySportsNet.com