There are few great catchers in this league. Well, perhaps there are great catchers, but few catchers are great players, because there's no reason for them to be. It's a physically demanding position not conducive to long careers and demands frequent days off. If you're a player who is a great offensive talent, why would your deprive yourself of the at-bats? If you're a player who is a fantastic athlete, spending your life in a crouch is a bit of a waste of your skills. And if you're a glory-hogging frontrunner, wearing a mask has probably never been your thing.
As such, the catching position is a good occupation for players with otherwise replacement-level offensive skills to take on as a way of sticking around. It worked for the Molina brothers, and just this past year John Jaso completed a rushed conversion to backstop after it was suggested to him as a way to break out of Tampa's farm system. It's to the point where a year of .300 OBP not only isn't bad enough to get a player fired, it results in two-year contracts.
With that in mind, the fact that neither Tyler Flowers nor Donny Lucy could worm their way into sticking on the big league roster for the White Sox looks really, really bad.
Tyler Flowers - 15 PA, 4 BB, 5 SO, 1 H, 2 R, 0 RBI, 0 XBH, .091 BA, .333 OBP, .091 SLG, .424 OPS, .246 wOBA, 1 of 3 throwing out runners, 0.0 WAR....as would be expected
Donny Lucy - 18 PA, 2 BB, 3 SO, 5 H, 2 R, 2 RBI, 1 HR, 3 2B, .333 BA, .444 OBP, .733 SLG, 1.178 OPS, .507 wOBA, 2 of 7 throwing out runners, 0.3 WAR
What did we expect?: Let's get something out of the way first; I had no idea who Donny Lucy was coming into the season, and just hearing that the White Sox needed to bring in some anonymous replacement to be the backup catcher while Ramon Castro recovered from injury just made me more pissed off at Tyler Flowers.
Flowers had been whispered about as the next White Sox catcher in waiting after he was dealt before the 2009 season. He mashed without end in the lower levels, but took just enough of a step back in Triple-A that the Sox--an organization known to be perfectly willing to promote a prospect who shows early signs of promise--were removed from any crisis of conscience about ending their fierce loyalty to A.J. Pierzynksi. For an encore, Flowers dudded (new word!) in his September call-up and Spring Training, eliminating any expectations that he'd be a factor with the big club in 2010, and also casting himself as the emblem of all White Sox farm system disappointment...which is a big responsibility.
The result: Well, both of them have a sample-size that renders their performance almost completely irrelevant. Lucy mashed, whereas Flowers showed nothing but the ability to take a walk. If the performances were switched, maybe we have something here. The hot prospect would be confirming everything the organization would want to happen, and the career minor-leaguer would be proving to be just as irrelevant as those types usually are.
Instead, Flowers took three more steps back in Triple-A in 2010, posting huge strikeout numbers and continuing to display the diminished level of power he's had since moving to Charlotte. Flowers blamed coach-induced swing changes, while scouts suggested the long swat that Tyler prefers diminishes his pro prospects. Either way, when the star-in-waiting hits .220 in Triple-A, no one is thrilled.
Lucy's job was merely to fill out a roster spot until Castro came back, and his plate appearance totals reflect that. In going ballistic and hitting 4 extra-base hits in 15 at-bats he created a controversy among bloggers who despised Castro, but clearly didn't sway anyone who mattered, and was dumped back into the minor leagues once the opportunity presented itself. Ramon Castro transforming into Blastro upon his return made Lucy all but forgotten by year's end. The fact that he was preposterously terrible in Triple-A for the rest of the season (.594 OPS) didn't help.
Love them or leave them?: With Pierzynski in tow for 2 more years, and Lucy turning 29 next August, that dream scenario where A.J. walks away, Ramon retires to open a BBQ spot, Flowers' development stalls, and by some miracle Donny Lucy is thrust into the starting catcher's spot doesn't seem like it's going to happen. For shame. Until then, Donny seems perfectly suited for the role of 'Injury Replacement Waiting in Triple-A'. He's cheap, is at least capable of production if not believed to be reliable, and apparently won't cause a stir in the catching rotation, even if he posts a 1.178 OPS in extremely limited time. Blame his low-status on extremely awful minor league numbers.
Flowers on the other hand, just had his ETA pushed back a fair amount. With Pierzynski and Castro under contract, it's unlikely that Tyler contributes anything beyond more September call-up time in 2011. Castro is almost certainly gone after 2011, meaning there's room for him to become starter, being a 26-year old backup, or serving in a right-lefty platoon with a very old Pierzynski in 2012.
It's all immaterial unless Flowers actually shows he can dominate in Triple-A. He's getting a little old to be the next big thing, and Kenny is certainly the type of general manager to flip a under-performing prospect while he still has some value (hello Joe Borchard). In a way, Flowers fits in pretty well with the rest of the team's roster; his time is quickly running out.