The Red Sox will be without Jason Varitek this year, barring any change of plans, for the first time since 1998.
As the catcher ponders his future, Boston enters spring training with several options at backstop, from incumbent Jarrod Saltalamacchia to veteran Kelly Shoppach to newcomer Ryan Lavarnway.
Heading into spring training, Saltalamacchia is slotted to be the starter. But in the vaunted AL East, it's worth rating and evaluating the catchers in the division in a position-by-position breakdown.
1. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
2011: 22 homers, 68 RBIs, .262 average, .328 slugging and .778 OPS (139 games)
Last season, Wieters displayed the potential that warranted a first-round selection in the 2007 MLB First-Year Player Draft. His hike from 11 home runs in 2010 to 22 in 2011 certainly bodes well for the rebuilding Orioles. The 25-year-old also has a laser arm, notching 70 assists en route to his first All-Star selection and a Gold Glove award.
2. Russell Martin, C, Yankees
2011: 18 homers, 65 RBIs, .237 average, .408 slugging and .732 OPS (125 games)
After two lackluster years with the Dodgers, Russell returned to his All-Star form in 2011. He achieved that goal with the Yankees despite entering last season with knee and hip injuries. Now, the 28-year-old enters spring training healthier and could be primed to post better numbers in the team's first year without the recently retired Jorge Posada since 1994.
3. J.P. Arenciba, C, Blue Jays
2011: 23 homers, 78 RBIs, .219 average, .438 slugging and .720 OPS (129 games)
As a rookie, Arenciba turned heads with his power, setting the Blue Jays' franchise record for most homers in a season by a catcher. The 26-year-old's low batting average is a concern for Toronto, but he could build on his plate discipline during his sophomore season in the big leagues.
4. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox
2011: 16 homers, 56 RBIs, .235 average, .450 slugging and .737 OPS (103 games)
For the majority of last season, Saltalamacchia split at-bats with Varitek, which could've hindered his potential production. With Varitek likely gone, Saltalamacchia said he's prepared for the long haul after a career-high 103 games in 2011. The 26-year-old also made strides defensively last season, throwing out 28 base stealers.
5. Jose Molina, C, Rays
2011: 3 homers, 15 RBIs, .281 average, .415 slugging and .757 OPS (55 games)
At 36, Molina won't produce much offensively. He's never started more than 81 games at catcher in a regular season. But the veteran brings a strong arm and defensive awareness, a pair of assets that Tampa Bay is banking on to save runs around the bases. Even so, he’ll likely split time with Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos.
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