Will Caleb Joseph be in the Majors on Opening Day?
By Mike Franz
Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
It is pretty clear that Matt Wieters will be the Baltimore Orioles’ starting catcher on Opening Day of the 2015 season, barring any setbacks regarding his throwing elbow. However, the Orioles’ backup catcher spot is up for grabs coming into spring training.
The Orioles have three other players battling for that spot: Caleb Joseph, Steve Clevenger, and recently signed J.P. Arencibia.
In 2014, Joseph took over as the starting catcher for Baltimore when Wieters had to have season-ending Tommy John Surgery. In 82 games and 275 plate appearances, Joseph batted .207/.264/.354 with nine doubles, nine home runs and 28 RBIs.
Despite low batting numbers, Joseph broke a franchise for catchers by hitting a home run in five consecutive ball games.
Joseph’s defense is what kept him in that starting role for so long. With both a .993 fielding percentage and an American League-leading caught stealing percentage (40.4 percent), Joseph lived up to the “Oriole Way” of solid defense.
Clevenger was on the Orioles’ roster for a short time last season. He appeared in 35 games and batted .225/.289/.337 with eight doubles and eight RBIs. In games played at Camden Yards, he hit .273/.347/.364 with four doubles and three RBIs.
The 28-year-old played most of the 2014 season however in Triple-A Norfolk, where he batted .305/.366/.389 with 13 doubles, two home runs and 30 RBIs.
On January 8th, 2015 the Orioles signed Arencibia to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. Arencibia is a career .207/.255/.403 hitter in five seasons in the major leagues. Although he has the ability to hit 18-20 home runs, his ability to hit with consistency is something he has lacked his entire major league career.
Arencibia’s defense is not a strong point. He only has a 27 caught stealing percentage and his ability to call a good game from behind the plate leaves something to be desired.
All three of these catchers have something to prove this spring and, in order to earn the backup catcher role, one of them is going to have to step up with both his bat and his glove down in Sarasota, Florida.