Is Lobaton the Rays Catching Answer?
Still not sure Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Lobaton is the answer to the Rays catching deficiency. I thought heading into this season we could of seen the emergence of Lobaton finally taking the Rays reigns and leading this team, but time out rehabbing an early injury has stymied his maturation processes and left the Rays with a big void behind the plate.
Even now upon his return Lobaton has produced mixed results and possibly the Rays may be eying a few catching possibilities with the Trade Deadline just 5 weeks away. The possibility of Lobaton taking the majority of the starts behind the plate for the Rays is diminishing with each and every start he doesn’t impress or show production. The Rays have invested a lot of their faith in the Venezuelan former Water Polo player, but so far he has only slightly risen above the water crest and showed he can handle the full-time duty.
Since his return from the disabled list, Lobaton over his 9 games has shown something the Rays have been lacking from their backstop position this season. Lobaton has seemed to have found his hitting groove sporting currently a .308 average and a nice.823 OPS. But even with his 8 hits, power is slowly coming to his game, almost to the point of being non-existent. And that is troubling to me since this spot in the Rays line-up needs to have that occasional “pop” and ability to keep pitchers honest with the top of the line-up just around the corner.
What is glaring to me in hindsight is the .091 average Lobaton sported during his rehab assignment as a possibly picture to what could evolve over the next 5 weeks. I shudder to think the Rays could handle or sustain any variance of Lobaton’s average getting anywhere near fellow catcher Jose Molina’s sub-par .183 batting average. If the Rays catching corp can not produce power numbers with any consistency over the next 5 weeks, changes will definitely be in the wind.
I should just look at the bright side of it all that since Lobaton came off the DL, he has sported 4 hits and 2 RBI in comparison that he had produced previously only 4 hits and 2 RBI in his time in 2011. Possibly with Lobaton being 1 of only 2 Rays to even muster a hit off of Chicago White Sox pitcher Chris Sale when he dismantled the Rays offense, I can cut him a bit of slack for now.
When Lobaton made the Rays Opening Day roster after a up and down Spring Training, I wanted to put eggs in his basket, hoping he had what this team has desired for a long time… a true leader and power behind the plate.
Possibly I’m expecting too much out of this young player in a short amount of time, but with the Rays season 1/3rd of the way completed, a positive force behind the plate could be instrumental in this team heading on a wins run that could prove to be the deciding factor come September.
Lobaton’s throwing ability bothers me right now. Sure he as an adequate arm, but a .166 (1 of 6) Catcher’s Efficiency is not making me any more confident or supportive of his possible long-term reign behind the Rays plate. But maybe I just need to give the guy a chance, let him mature and expand into his role and revisit this again in 5 weeks. By then we will all know if the Rays have faith in his expanding leadership and bat, or if another body will man the dish with Lobaton possibly looking on from the dugout. I’m hoping personally the guy finds his way and shows why both the Rays and the fans have been awaiting his return.