John Hester, catcher
Could he be a major-league regular?
He probably could, but he probably won’t. Hester hit very well in Reno in 2009-2010, but otherwise he’s been a .260-range hitter, with fair power until last year at Norfolk. He’s an average defensive catcher. If he got a major-league job, I’d expect him to hit .240-.250 with 10 home runs and adequate defense. He’s not good enough to win a regular job, but in the right circumstances he could inherit one and hold it for a couple of years.
Do you want him as a backup?
He’s a good backup for a Matt Wieters-type catcher, because he does everything adequately. If I had a starting catcher who is a “partial” catcher – one who does some things well but other things badly – then I’d want a backup catcher who is a mirror image, whose strengths correspond to my regular’s weaknesses. Then, I’d try to match up based on my opponent. But Matt Wieters is a “total” catcher, who does everything better than his backups (or at least well enough so that you rest him when he needs rest, not when the backup is a better player.) I’d want a backup catcher who does everything fairly well, so that my opponents can’t exploit his weakness.
However, whoever Matt Wieters’ backup is, it’s not going to make the slightest difference. Wieters is going to play so much that the backup catcher won’t get enough playing time to impact the team. If you get into a discussion with someone who vehemently insists that catcher A should be the backup catcher over catcher B, you’re dealing with a chucklehead.
What was the point of the Mark Reynolds trade?
I mention that here because Hester was the Player to Be Named Later in last winter’s Mark Reynolds trade, in which the Orioles sent pitchers Dave Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to Arizona for Reynolds and, ultimately, Hester. Reynolds was acquired to be the Orioles’ third baseman, and he couldn’t do even a passable job at third base. Now the plan is to move him to first base and try the erstwhile first baseman Chris Davis at third.
Although Reynolds is not as bad a player as his batting average and strikeouts are frustrating, I think the trade was a desperation move. The Orioles seem to have given up on Josh Bell, and had no other viable third-base candidates in the system, so they felt they had to acquire someone. Reynolds had signed a reasonable contract, and the Orioles felt that they could surrender two of their bullpen arms to get him.
But it was still a stopgap move, a move to get the Orioles through the season rather than building a team that can truly compete in the AL East. Instead of acquiring stopgaps, they should be focusing on developing young players. That Dave Hernandez proved to be a better bullpen option than the pitchers the Orioles kept only highlights the irrelevance of the trade.