Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
Pena won't hit .300 or steal plate appearances from Alex Avila, but he should be able to spell Avila for the occasional day off.
WHY DIDN'T I FIGURE THIS THING OUT SOONER?!
Anyway, today's player preview is the 2013 version of Gerald Laird: backup catcher Brayan Pena.
What happened last season?
Pena appeared in 68 games for the Kansas City Royals last year and put up the kind of offensive numbers you would expect from a career backup catcher. A good chunk of Pena's playing time came in the early months of the season while
freak of nature starting catcher Salvador Perez was nursing a knee injury, but the consistent plate appearances didn't help Pena's numbers. He only struck out in 10.6% of his plate appearances, which is nice I guess. He also had a sacrifice bunt, which is probably something you will see him do every chance he gets this year.
Defensively, Pena isn't going to wow you with his arm, but he's not a liability either. He threw out 24% of would-be base stealers last year, a slight dip from his career mark of 30%. His five passed balls were a career high, but 2012 was only the second time in his career that he caught more than 400 innings in a season. Either way, I don't think we're going to be having much discussion about the merits of his glove.
What needs to happen in 2013?
Pena needs to play well enough to not lose his job to Bryan Holaday or Ramon Cabrera. If he hits above the Mendoza line and plays solid defense, this shouldn't be an issue. I'm hoping that his two or three home runs this year come in clutch situations, or that he can sacrifice bunt with the best of them to avoid grounding into double plays -- and no, I will not be upset at Jim Leyland for having Pena bunt at any point this year.
2012 stats and 2013 projections
The part where I predict pretty much the same thing Bill James does
I might cry if Pena starts 76 games this year, if only because that means that Alex Avila is hurt. However, I can live with the numbers that James predicts if Pena starts the 30-40 games we expect out of him.