The loss of A.J. Pierzynski – an emotional leader and one of the last remaining members of the 2005 World Series team – hurt everyone at least a little bit. Not only did it hurt for us fans to watch such an exceptional figure leave the south side, but it left a gaping hole within the White Sox clubhouse as well as the starting catcher position.
Though it hurts, it was inevitably bound to happen. What may soften the blow may be the emergence of Tyler Flowers.
Being my first post on GSB!, I figured I'd follow in Zach's foot steps by shining some optimism on a Sox-situation, if you will. So, here's my hopeful plea for what it'll take for Flowers to bloom …
Tyler Flowers has been learning and waiting for his chance to take over the full-time starting catcher role for quite some time. Some fans may not be too excited for the 27 year-old catcher, but he has showcased flashes of talent that should have Sox fans buzzing.
Over the last two seasons, Flowers has been doing spot duty at catcher primarily catching day games to give A.J. a break. In his insufficient amount of chances, Flowers has showcased great ability to hit with power but has primarily struggled at the plate, hitting .209 in 110 ABs in 2011 and .213 in 136 ABs in 2012. These numbers will most definitely improve with more stable and consistent playing time, but it is how much they'll improve that has everyone wondering.
Let’s face it, if he ends up hitting in the very low .200's, it could be a catastrophe as the Sox do not need another player who hits for a low average like Adam Dunn. But if he can pull his average up to .240 or .250 while still maintaining his power ability, I believe the White Sox can have a catcher that can take some of the discomfort off from losing AJ.
From a defensive perspective, having Tyler Flowers behind the plate more often will deter base runners more than AJ. Though not blessed with a rocket arm, Tyler possesses the smooth fluid transition and release that enables him to throw out base runners more often and consistently compared than AJ did (24% throughout his career).
It will take some time for Flowers to fully get in sync with the White Sox pitching staff. Flowers has been catching for Jake Peavy for quite a while now, which initially takes off the amount of time that it will take. So how long until he is in perfect harmony with the pitching staff? Not long at all.
Encouragement from AZ
Tyler Flowers has been having a fairly good spring training so far through 17 ABs, Flowers has posted a .294 Avg., an OBP of .455 and a slugging percentage of .588, all really good numbers for him. He has also been walked more now than in past seasons, and his strikeout rate has been lowered, too. Those two things are most likely due to the fact that he has a much greater patience and eye at the plate allowing him to improve his game.
If Flowers can continue to build during Spring Training and continue to get accustomed to catching with the Sox’s pitching staff, he could be ready to finally breakthrough as an everyday catcher for the White Sox. Like most players he will have his bad games, but hopefully more consistent playing time will help him breakout and reach his full potential.
So, for what it's worth …
My Season Prediction: .268 BA, 25 HR, 65 RBI, 40 BB