It wasn’t really all that long ago that Jarrod Saltamacchia was the centerpiece of a deal for Mark Teixeira (a career .281/.373/.532 hitter who was 26 at the time). He is a classic example of an over-hyped prospect who never lived up to expectations. However, that does not necessarily make him a bad player, and he is not really worse than an average catcher. He got his first real chance at a starting job in 2o11– and he performed decently– but 2012 is his contract year. With free agency on the horizon and Ryan Lavarnway on his tail, Saltalamacchia will probably be searching for a job in the offseason and will want to impress this year. That doesn’t exactly mean he’s suddenly going to bat .300/.400/.550 and be an all-star, but he could quietly put together a nice little season for the Red Sox.
Power has never been an issue for Saltalamacchia; he banged 16 home runs in 103 games in 2011. His isolated power of .215 was third– behind Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana– among catchers with 300+ at bats in 2011. If given sufficient playing time (130-150 games) in 2012, it isn’t out of reach to think Salty could potentially hit 30 home runs. The issue for Salty has, and always has been, the ability to make contact regularly and cut down on strikeouts. He struck out an alarming 30.8% in 2011 and walked only 6.2%; that is a problem. Because of these issues, he managed only a .288 on-base percentage in 2011– meaning he struck out 2% more than he got on base.
The question is whether or not Saltalamacchia can make these adjustments. If he can adjust to a tune of, say, 20% strikeouts and 8% walks (let’s be realistic) then he could become a .260 hitter. However, if he stays as is, expect similar numbers to last year’s .235/.288/.450 mark– just with more at-bats, meaning a few more dingers (he could top 20). As I said before, power is not an issue for Saltalamacchia and he will probably keep a slugging percentage somewhere around or above last year’s .450 mark. If Salty stays the same as last year, he could find himself losing playing time to Kelly Shoppach and Ryan Lavarnway pretty quickly. However, he could also cement himself as the team’s starting catcher for the year. Either way, good luck to Salty and here’s to hoping for a great year.