Although almost a week has passed, it still pains me to think about Yasmani Grandal’s 50 game suspension. The ban will force the Friars to be left without their starting Catcher and Switch-Hitting 5th hitter for close to the first one-third of the 2013 season. Both holes I might add, are not easy ones to fill. The arduous task of replacing Grandal during the season’s first two months will largely fall to former starter Nick Hundley.
Do not get me wrong, I want to be confident that Hundley can be an effective back-stop for our beloved Padres, and can hold down the proverbial “fort” while Grandal is absent. But after what happened last season to Hundley with regards to his poor productivity at the plate and the numerous injuries which I alluded to in my last post, I and I am sure many others have some doubts as to whether or not he is up to the challenge. If in fact Hundley is unable to hit with consistency or is injured yet again, veteran backup John Baker could see some extensive work behind the dish for the Friars early next season.
Baker’s 2012 Season & His Possible Role in 2013
After Hundley signed a three year extension last offseason, it was thought by many including myself that he would be San Diego’s primary option at the Catcher position during the 2012 campaign. Although the Padres had traded for the veteran Baker from the Marlins last winter, the starting job seemed to be all Hundley’s. But due to Hundley’s struggles at the plate and injuries, and Grandal’s injury late in the season, Baker received some extended work in spot starter capacity last season for the Friars.
In 63 games, Baker hit .238 (46 for 193) and drove in 14 RBI’s. Although his Offensive numbers were not particularly stellar (8 Doubles, .310 OBP, .280 Slugging Percentage), Baker stepped in when the team needed him ans still logged plenty of Innings (460.1) and worked with a make-shift and hodge-podge Starting Staff all season long. I would say that Baker performed quite well in a substitute role when one considers that he had only caught a combine 181.0 Innings over his last two (2010-2011) seasons with the Marlins.
While Grandal’s strong finish to the 2012 season all but assured him of the starting job in 2013, and Hundley appeared ready to assume the back-up role while fighting for playing time, it certainly that Baker would be on the outside looking in for playing time with the Friars. But with Grandal now suspended, Baker is back to #2 on the depth chart, and could very well be called upon to help the ball club in April and May.
Whether or not Baker will have to play extensively through the season’s first 50 games is still in doubt and probably will not be decided until the season is underway. Baker’s playing time will likely hinge on how well Nick Hundley can capably produce, stay healthy, and play during Grandal’s absence. Even if he does not overtake Hundley or asked to play consistently, Baker still remains a Left-Handed bat off of the bench and went 5 for 14 (.357 Batting Average with 2 Doubles and 1 RBI) in a substitute role in 2012.
While Hundley and Baker might not be as effective as Grandal was last season, it will be up to them to produce in his absence. Will they actually be up to the task? I guess we will just have to wait and see over the next few months.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference