Feb. 12, 2013; Tempe, AZ, USA: Los Angeles Angels catcher Chris Iannetta throws during spring training at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Angels Spring Training: Catchers A Cause for Concern

Behind the plate for the 2013 Angels is another area where the Angels took a proactive approach, but it won’t feature many changes. The catching situation will look very similar. The Angels signed Chris Iannetta to a 3-year extension through 2015, coming only 2 days after their 2012 campaign ended.  Solid defensively when in, Iannetta only played in 79 games in 2012 after suffering a broken wrist. He batted .240 in that time, and had 26 RBIs, which was on pace for about the same production that earned Iannetta a contract with the Angels in a trade with Colorado a year earlier.

Overall, the Rhode Island native’s offensive production was adequate, but with the Angels having such a potentially potent offense his most important task is to develop a great rapport with the Angels pitching staff. They aren’t asking a whole lot of that position. He will have the biggest impact to the Angels season on the game-planning and defensive areas of the game—sprinkled in with some timely hitting.

In 2012 the 6ft 4 John Hester played in 39 games for the Angels, and was something less than spectacular. He batted .212 and had 4 runs batted in over that time. With no consistency behind the plate, or with that spot in the lineup it explains in part the Angels lack of consistency last season. Hester should fight out for the 2 spot with Hank Conger, but the upside of the 24 year old Conger give him a decisive edge.

Hank Conger is the last person I expect to walk to the pate when I hear the name Hank Conger. The name sounds more suitable for Larry the Cable Guy than the Angels homegrown catcher drafted out of Huntington Beach High School. He is well aware that his role is not the number 1 catcher heading into spring training.

Conger told Bill Plunkett of the OC Register after the Angels re-signed Iannetta

I’m just going to go into spring training and see what happens. … Ultimately, I want to be here. I’ve been drafted by this team. I have a lot of friends here.

In regards to Iannetta vs Conger, Angels GM Jerry Dipoto told Plunkett

This is about Chris Iannetta and what he brings. We feel confident with Chris as our every-day catcher. Hank – and everyone else – will be given an opportunity to compete for a role.

Conger played 59 games for the big club in 2011, and showed more promise in nearly 70 games in AAA Salt Lake last year. If Iannetta went down again this season, Conger knows he is going to get a chance to be that everyday catcher for the team he wants to stay with.

Most teams don’t have the impact, franchise player that Buster Posey or Joe Mauer is at the catcher position. But with the inexperience behind him, and a lack of top notch catchers available, plus all the money the Angels had spent already, it is of little wonder that they spent the $15 and a half  million on Chris Iannetta.

Luckily the Angels don’t have that many holes to fill in the lineup, and have tried to address those in the rotation and bullpen. That leaves little asked of Iannetta, but a lot of expectations to perform very well at what he is asked to do. He needs to develop chemistry with the new faces of Hanson, Vargas, Madson, and Burnett. If the new and the old are on the same page, the Angels are going to be sitting on top of the AL West come October.

Tags: Catchers Chris Iannetta Hank Conger Los Angeles Angels Spring Training

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