It was only two years ago when Miguel Montero created 7 percent more runs than an average MLB hitter and finished as the fifth most valuable offensive catcher in the National League. But Montero failed to follow up on that production in 2016 due to chronic back injures and limited opportunities thanks to Willson Contreras and David Ross’s productive seasons.
So far this season, however, improved health and a clearer role have helped Miggy regain the offensive prowess he showed in 2015.
Hitting the ball hard creates runs. Duh. Miggy didn’t hit the ball hard last year, as seen by the dip in exit velocity below. The point at which the squiggly line shoot backs up is right when the veteran backstop started to get healthy last September, and the trend has continued so far this young season.
In particular, Contreras’s mentor isn’t letting any fastballs in the middle of the zone escape. Whereas he struggled mightily against hard pitches over the middle of the plate when he was battling through back pain, Montero is now demolishing them. In fact, he has six hits (one of which was a homer) against four-seamers alone, and has only whiffed against 16 percent of the fastballs he’s faced.
Willson Contreras, on the other hand, hasn’t had the best start this year, owning a .291 wOBA and 29 percent strikeout rate. Having a health backup certainly allows Joe Maddon to handle Contreras’s growing pains by playing Montero more when the matchups dictate it.
This isn’t to suggest Montero should play more right now, but rather to highlight the importance of a rejuvenated hitter who enters Saturday’s game against the Yankees with the highest wOBA (.433) in the National League among catchers (minimum 40 PAs).