Apr 27, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher Michael McKenry (8) hits a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
As the season gets underway, RoxPile.com is making some fun (but completely unqualified!) predictions about how members of the Colorado Rockies will fare this summer. In this edition: Michael McKenry.
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After starting his career in the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system, Michael McKenry bounced around, seeing time with the Rockies (2010), Red Sox (AAA, 2011), and Pirates (2011-2013) before returning to Colorado last season as the back-up catcher for much of the year.
Now, with Wilin Rosario learning first base and Nick Hundley behind the plate as the primary backstop, McKenry figures to be the backup catcher to spell Hundley while providing good defense, and, if his 2014 season was any indication, a pretty good bat for the Rockies.
What The Numbers Say
FanGraphs lists various projection systems, which you can learn more about here.
All projection systems are pretty bullish on McKenry having a good year on offense, though none believe him to ever overtake Hundley as the everyday catcher (and that’s probably wise). Projected to receive between 150 and 225 plate appearances this season, McKenry is expected to hit at least 20 points higher than his .244 career batting average while also setting numbers above his career averages in SLG and OBP.
It goes without saying that, while the projections are kind to McKenry, a year where a backup catcher hits .270ish and gets on base more than 33% of the time is a pretty good year for that bench role.
Call to the Pen
McKenry’s best-case scenario happened last season, though there’s no reason to think he couldn’t repeat it. He slashed .315/.398/.512 in 192 plate appearances in 2014, with eight home runs and nine doubles, and an 11.5% walk rate.
Anything approaching that again would make him a very valuable backup catcher to Hundley (who may not hit as effectively, but works incredibly well with the pitching staff), and would also go a long way in proving the Rockies made a smarter move than we’ve all thought in sticking Rosario in AAA to learn first base and get everyday at-bats there (though, McKenry’s bat will never replace Rosario’s pop).
McKenry’s worst-case scenario would be as an offensive black hole on the days he starts. Granted, he may never start more than once or twice a week, but if it gets to the point where every one of his starts is almost a guaranteed hitless day for the Rockies from his spot in the order, his starts become less valuable even in spite of his ability to work with pitchers and give Hundley a rest.
Considering he’s a .244 career hitter with 25 home runs and a .315 on-base percentage, he’s certainly a light-hitting catcher, but not a non-existent one; I can’t imagine a total black hole at the plate for him, despite his relatively slow start to this season.
McKenry will do what he needs to do, and give the Rockies what they need from his role on the team: a respite here and there for Hundley, and just-good-enough defense, pitch calling, game calling, and offense when he gets his opportunities.
I personally can’t see him hitting over .300 again this season, but I think it’s well within the realm of possibilities for him to slash somewhere around .270/.330/.440 – and that would be more than good enough for a backup catcher.
Give us your predictions!