6-4, 245 lbs
2016 salary: $2,000,000 + up to $1,500,000 in bonuses based on games caught
Team control: 2 years, $5,300,000 guaranteed (bonuses available), with team option for 2018 ($4,000,000 + $1,500,000 in available bonuses)
Acquired: signed as Free Agent (12/2015) to a 2 year, $5,3M+ deal.
The Outfield Fly Ruling
Signed in the 2015-16 offseason, Flowers gives Atlanta a potential platoon partner for A.J. Pierzynski. While Pierzynski hits righties well, Flowers prefers lefties. While there’s an argument for letting Flowers start, he should see a lot of playing time even if he isn’t the primary catcher. Pierzynski, now 39, will need significant and regularly scheduled rest. Flowers is already a superior defender to Pierzynski, and there’s a non-zero chance he’ll be a better hitter as well if Pierzynski’s age catches up with him. Without any impact catching prospects in the high levels of the minor leagues, Flowers was signed to a 2 year deal with a 3rd year team option to help continue bridge the gap between Brian McCann and Atlanta’s next great catcher.
The OFR Scouting Report
20-80 scale, where 20 will prevent you from reaching the bigs, 30 is terrible, 40 is below average, 50 is MLB average, 60 is plus, 70 is plus-plus, and 80 is HOF-level.
Hit: 35 ↔
Getting hits just isn’t a big part of Flowers’ game, and it never has been. He owns a career .223/.289 BA/OBP split. Unusually, he took more walks as a very young player, but now is more aggressive. There’s a lot of swing-and-miss in his approach, with a strikeout in one of every 3 plate appearances in his career. It’s not really an issue of a poor batting eye – Flowers swings at balls less frequently than the average player, and he attacks pitches in the zone at an above-average rate. The issue is simply making contact, which is sub-par no matter how you slice it. Going into his age 30 season, this is unlikely to improve, but it should at least maintain for a while. Catchers who hit .230-.240 are useful if they can do other things.
Flowers has a notable platoon split, favoring left-handed pitching, against whom he has batted .252/.319/.407 over a multi-year sample, compared to just a .228/.283/.360 line against righties.
Power: 55 ↔
Part of Flowers’ issue with his hit tool is that he swings so hard, he gives up some bat control to increase power. To an extent, it works. For his career, he owns a .152 ISO (slugging % minus batting average, a good measure of raw power) and has homered 46 times in two full season’s worth of plate trips. The power is above average, which is a key for Flowers. When hits don’t come very often, they need to count a little more, and his often do.
Speed: 35 ↔
Like most catchers, Flowers is slow.
Defense: 60 ↔
Flowers isn’t great at all aspects of catcher defense. He is a very below average blocker (-0.8 runs above average when blocking pitches in 2015, worst in the majors according to BP), which is unsurprising for such a large, bulky catcher, and he doesn’t deter baserunners from attempting steals (-1.1 throwing runs above average, mostly due to runners attempting many steals). However, Flowers has recently excelled at the most important aspect of catcher defense: stealing strikes. In 2015, Flowers ranked 5th among qualified catchers in BP’s framing runs above average, worth an estimated 16.3 runs above average. The metrics at StatCorner liked his framing even more, estimating his value at 22.5 runs above average, the 2nd highest mark in MLB in 2015. StatCorner estimates that Flowers earns an extra 1.8 strikes per game behind the plate. With Flowers catching, White Sox pitchers had 10% of pitches designated as outside the zone by the Pitch F/X tracking system called strikes. So, while Flowers’ defense isn’t stellar in an all-around sense, he recently has been one of the best in the game at picking up strike calls on balls outside the strike zone.
Other: Flowers grew up in the Atlanta area. He was born in Roswell and attended Blessed Trinity HS. Eventually drafted by the Braves in round 33 of the 2005 draft, his signing marks a coming home both geographically and professionally. He also has a history with fellow catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who was the incumbent when Flowers reached the majors with the White Sox.
Flowers talks about his commitment to pitch framing (8/15)
An interview with Flowers about low strikes and pitch framing (7/14)
Walk Off Walk