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catcher-estrada-then-what | January | 2005 Articles

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Catcher: Estrada, then what?

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Johnny Estrada is virtually guaranteed the starting role as catcher for the 2005 Atlanta Braves, but who should play behind him? The Braves have three viable options: veteran catcher and 36-year-old Eddie Perez, 25-year-old Jean Boscan, and 23-year-old Brayan Peña. Both Boscan and Peña spent most of their time last year in AA Greenville, and Boscan was promoted to AAA Richmond to finish the season. Both are non-roster invitees to spring training and are likely only an injury away from major league playing time, but some Braves fans are wondering: why keep Eddie Perez, and why not go ahead and bring up the young talent?
Boarding a charter plane in May 2004, Eddie Perez was asked by one of his coaches, "How's my favorite catcher?" Eddie replied, "I don't know, he's in Baltimore!"
ESPN's scouting report on Eddie Perez confirms what my eyes tell me: he's an aggressive hitter, a better bad-ball hitter than good-ball hitter, and he's a slow, groundball hitter, making him seem like more of a liability than an asset in clutch situations. But he is a good catcher, as well as an entertainer and motivator off the field. But despite being a fan- and clubhouse-favorite, at age 36 Perez isn't the same catcher he was 5-10 years ago, and he was never exactly all-star material to begin with. And now the Braves have two young catchers on the verge of making a splash in the majors. According to an MLB.com report on their winter league performances, Boscan and Peña are ready for big-league action. Boscan is a couple years older, has a strong arm, and is expected to be a good backup catcher in the majors if not a step higher. Peña has always been playing a level higher than his age should allow, and he's still young enough that his career could take off or settle into mediocre cruise control. You can see their minor league stats by clicking their names linked above, and you can judge for yourself who might make a better impression in Atlanta, but I believe 2005 might be Eddie Perez's last chance to impress at the major league level before Jean Boscan gets to the majors. But he needs to watch out for Brayan Pe a, who may not throw quite as hard but looks to hit a little bit harder and for better average. Of course, should either of them make it to the big leagues to stay, neither can get too comfortable: almost-21-year-old Brian McCann is slugging his way through the Braves minor league system and should be ready for Atlanta by late 2006.

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