Catcher, Luke Maile likely won’t be with the Blue Jays in 2019, but he will have set himself up for lots of job possibilities
The Toronto Blue Jays will have some roster decisions to make in the coming weeks and months. One of those decisions is what to do with the catching position. We have seen Danny Jansen getting some serious playing time as the season moved into the final month of the season. All indications are that the club will look to carry he and Russell Martin into the 2019 season. Reese McGuire is even getting some reps behind the dish and there are guys like Max Pentecost making their way up. It is safe to assume, then, that the Blue Jays likely don’t have a job for the 27 year old Luke Maile.
Way back in February, I wrote that having Maile as a backup catcher is A-OK. If you consider what is actually expected of a backup catcher at the big league level, Maile looked to be a player that would fill the role nicely. He can call a game, plays respectable defense and occasionally chips in with the bat. Over the offseason, he was looking to add more power to his game as he acknowledged that he is plenty big enough to hit for more power.
Well, 2018 has seen him hit a total of three home runs and thirteen doubles for an ISO of .120, the second highest mark of his career. It may not look overly impressive though in a day and age where home run is king. Heck, even racking up doubles is rather impressive. But, Maile hasn’t really done that. The power may not be as prolific as we’d like, but you can’t knock his overall value as a backup catcher.
In a career high 229 plate appearances, he has hit .250, a respectable .336 OBP and a .370 SLG. The .706 OPS is definitely a big league career high. In fact, it hasn’t been that high since AA in 2014. Maile has produced a wRC+ of 96 with a (MLB) career high BB% of 11.9%. Now, if you wanted to be picky, you could say that he has benefited from a career best BABIP of .353. Even nitpicking like that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s had the best offensive showing of his big league tenure.
A backup catcher’s real value, though, comes in his abilities behind the plate. To his credit, Maile has once again put up a career Def rating (per Fangraphs) 5.5. In fact, if we look at his Fans Scouting Report, which measures Instincts, First Step, Arm Strength, Arm Accuracy and more, Maile has outdone himself across the board. According to these metrics, he has actually improved his defense. He added to his career total DRS with a mark of 4 this season. That brings his total up to 18.
Baseball Reference has added a metric for rating a catcher’s ability to frame pitches. It is listed as RszC (the number of runs above or below average the catcher was worth based on catcher framing). And, what do you know? Maile has outperformed himself yet again. He set a mark of 5. His 2018 pitch framing was worth 5 runs above average. For comparison, Russell Martin, a catcher who is well known for being a good pitch framer put up a RszC score of 6 in 2018.
Across the board, Luke Maile has improved his game, which will make him a rather attractive backup catching target this winter.
When If the Blue Jays decide to DFA Maile (he has 4 more years of team control), it really shouldn’t worry him in the least. From a business standpoint, it would make total sense for this move to happen. He has to be looking around the locker room these days and picking up the vibe. This club has other ideas moving forward.
But, that shouldn’t bother him. From his perspective, he has put together what looks to be a career best season. In many regards, Maile has made improvement in his game. And, they’ve come at just the right time. MLB teams are always looking for catching help. At 27, he is still on the right side of the age spectrum. His production this season should make him a rather nice offseason target. Sure, backup catchers don’t exactly fly off the shelves early in the offseason.
But, that shouldn’t bother Luke Maile. He’s set himself up rather nicely to land a job in 2019.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.