A.J. Pierzynski was a great player for the White Sox.
For eight seasons, Pierzynski wore #12 on the Southside. He helped the team win a World Series in 2005, made a 2006 All Star appearance, was involved in controversial calls, provided that tough guy attitude in the clubhouse, and won over hearts of fans. Fans will never forget A.J., nor should they. What the fan base needs to do is give Tyler Flowers a chance.
Pierzynski had a great season last year. He it .278/27 HR/77 RBI's. He set a career high in homeruns and tied a career high in RBI's. He was a fixture behind home plate with his ability to play almost every day. If A.J. matches those career numbers this year for the Texas Rangers, then his left handed bat will be sorely missed. The flipside to that is Pierzynski is a 36 year old catcher. While I expect him to put up decent numbers in Texas, it's likely he doesn't hit his 2012 numbers. Pierzynski got a 1 year $7.5 million dollar deal to play for the Rangers. Fans were upset at the icons departure and have been expressing that opinion most recently at Sox Fest. The thing is though the White Sox could not afford A.J. and needed to see what Tyler Flowers can do.
So what are realistic expectations for Flowers? First, fans have to realize he's not A.J. Pierzynski. His game is different both offensively and defensively. So don't compare Flowers to Pierzynksi. Flowers needs to be given a open book to start writing his own chapter in the White Sox history book. When the Sox traded for Flowers in 2008, from the Atlanta Braves system, he was a top 100 prospect ranked by Baseball America. He was known to be strong and offensively ready. He lacked defensively and need more time to develop in the minors. A few seasons later, Flowers is known more for his defensive ability to call a game and people are concerned about his offense.
It's hard to rate a young man like Flowers in his role last year. A backup catcher to A.J. Pierzynski, who does not get regular at bats. Anyone who knows baseball knows how hard it is to be good hitter without getting consistent at bats. We saw glimpses of Flowers capabilities when A.J. was out for a few games due to injury. The limited amount of at bats showed some good qualities. In 136 AB's, he hit .213/ 7 HR/13 RBI's. Here's what you can expect with Flowers in 2013.
Flowers is going to strike out a lot. Not at the clip I think most people have him at, but he will have a high strikeout ratio. Flowers is also going to hit you some home runs, some really deep home runs. The 27 year old is incredibly strong. I'm projecting Flowers between .230-.240 in average. I've seen a lot of predictions with him in the .220 range, but I feel consistent at bats will help him increase his average. The low end for homeruns will be 20, but I'm projecting more in the 27-30 range. The RBI total is difficult because I'm not sure where Ventura will hit Flowers in the lineup. I'm thinking 8-9, so 65-70 RBI's is where I have him slotted. Defensively, Flowers provides a big target for his pitchers. The 6'4", 245lbs catcher is a big body behind home plate. He will cut down more runners trying to steal second base. Also, the amount of past balls should go down for the team in 2013.
I know what you're saying after reading that. A.J.'s numbers are better and you would be right. A.J.'s numbers in the past were better. The homerun numbers may of been lower, but A.J. made contact and hit for a higher average perennially. You can't pay a player for past performance though. Flowers will make a projected $600,000-$700,000, while A.J. is receiving $7.5 million. If Flower provides the numbers I project for the salary he's due, then he is a bargain. Don't think Tyler is taking this opportunity lightly though. He knows this is his time to shine if he wants to be the starting catcher for the White Sox for the foreseeable future. Flowers told CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien this when asked about replacing A.J.,
"It's more than numbers, though," Flowers explains. "A.J. was a great player, but I think there are other things that I bring to the table that he didn't have in his repertoire. But at the same time his offensive ability is pretty superior, especially for the position we play. So I'm not going to sit here and say that I'm going to hit better than A.J. or anything like that. I'm going to tell you that I'm going to work just as hard as he did, and he was a guy who worked his tail off every day. I've actually taken a lot of that from him the last few years and I plan on continuing that for the rest of my career."
"This is something I've been waiting for a while. It's a good opportunity. It's time to see what all that hard work was for over the last 20 years. I'm definitely excited. I feel blessed to get an opportunity and I look forward to taking advantage of it."
So fans remember A.J. for what he was . A icon in the history of Chicago White Sox baseball that will always be remembered. It's a new time though and a new season is approaching. It's time to come into the 2013 season with a open mind on Tyler Flowers. He may just surprise you.
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