Should Lou Marson return to AAA to get consistent playing time while Paul Phillips or Luke Carlin head North with the Indians to fill the backup catcher role?
Other than the 40-man roster move that would have to be made to get Phillips or Carlin on the roster, neither Phillips or Carlin appear to have the skill set that provide any sort of depth on the major league roster.
Marson showed the ability to hit at AA Reading in 2008. He hit .314/.433/.416 in 395 PA (see peripherals below as to why I don't feel he could replicate those numbers). He has been unable to carry that 2008 production to AAA or the major leagues. I doubt the Indians feel that Marson will evolve into an offensive force in AAA and allow them to move Carlos Santana to 1b. I do believe the Indians see Marson strictly as a backup catcher, a guy to provide a day off for Carlos Santana, will help control the running game, and will provide offense against left handed pitching.
Just some peripheral stats:
In 2010, Marson had an unbelievably low BABIP of .221 in the majors and .231 in the minors.
In 2010, Marson had a GB% of 56.9 (league average is 43.2%) in the majors and a GB% of 46.5% in AAA.
Even in Marson's best 2008 AA season he had a GB% of 59.1 but a BABIP of .386.
Let's first take a look at the obvious backup catching options that are in camp. Keep in mind that Marson, Phillips, and Carlin major league statistics are all based on limited sample sizes. Since Minorleaguesplits.com is not available, I am unalbe to give the minor league vs left handed pitching splits. Finally, arguing the merits of the defenisve prowress of a catcher is a tricky proposition, so I tried to keep the defensive statistics fairly vanilla.
Paul Phillips is a right handed hitter who will be 34 shortly after opening day. In parts of 7 major league seasons he has 238 career PA with a lifetime slash line of .262/.298/.357. Since the Indians would like to give Santana his time off against left-handed pitching, let's look at Phillips career slash line versus left handed pitching. He has 72 PA and has a slash line of .212/.268/.379. Defensively, Phillips has caught 432.2 major league innings, thrown out 32% of baserunners attempting to steal (12 of 38), a total zone, total fielding runs above average (Rtot) of -4 (defined as the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made), and a lifetime fielding percentage of .990 (lgFld% during career is .992). In 11 minor league seasons, Phillips caught 681 games and had a career slash line of .273/.321/.378. He has thrown out 38% of baserunners attempting to steal (144 of 382) and a career minor league fielding percentage of .988.
Luke Carlin is a switch hitter* who will be 30 this year. In parts of 3 major league seasons he has 142 PA and a slash line of .175/.268/.286. Carlin only has 35 career PA agains left handed pitchers with a slash line of .188/.257/.219. He has caught 330.2 major league innings, has thrown out 20% of baserunners attempting to steal (9 of 44), has a 0 Rtot, and a fielding percentage of .990 (lgFld% during career is .992). In 9 minor league season, Carlin caught 523 games and has a career slash line of .252/.358/.351. He has thrown out 31% of baserunners attempting to steal (80 of 258) and has a career fielding percentage of .989. *Thanks to Buckhollow of Cle.com for pointing out an earlier error.
Lou Marson is a right handed hitter who will be 24 on opening day. In parts of 3 majorl league season he has 370 PA and a slash line of .208/.291/.312. He has 91 PA against left handed pitchers with a slash line of .272/.344/.383. He has caught 725 major league innings, has thrown out 40% of baserunners attempting to steal (31 of 82), has a 16 Rtot, and a fielding percentage of .993 (lgFld% is .992). In 7 minor league seasons, Marson has caught 535 games and has a career slash line of .269/.366/.385. He has thrown out 31% of baserunners attempting to steal (80 of 254) and has a carrer minor league fielding percentage of .985.