The Prize of Surprise: Yorvit Torrealba
When most Ranger fans think of the team’s catcher, Mike Napoli will come to mind. That’s for good reason. Nap had a monster 2011 season. There is another catcher hanging around, though, that has something to prove.
Texas signed Yorvit Torrealba to a two year deal in November of 2011, just two months before they traded for Mike Napoli. Up until the Napoli deal was made, Torrealba was slated to be the everyday catcher for the Rangers. Even though he has embraced his backup role well, having your job yanked away never feels good.
Even though Torrealba didn’t finish the season as the number one guy behind the plate in 2011, he did get his opportunities. In fact, Torrealba and Napoli both appeared in 113 games for Texas (Napoli spent some time at 1st base and some at DH). This led Torrealba to have the second highest plate appearance total of his career with 419. That was only topped in 2007 when he was with the Rockies. Yorvit has never been a very impactful player, but he has certainly been consistent. This consistency was again demonstrated last season when Torrealba’s average (.273) and on base percentage (.306) were both within 13 percentage points of his career averages (.260 and .318, respectively). Unfortunately, Yorvit did not have a good post season, and that is what is fresh in the minds of fans and, likely, the organization.
Yorvit also had some offseason trouble. When playing in the Venezuelan Winter League he had a run in with an umpire in which he shoved the ump by the face. He was suspended for the remainder of the league’s season.
All of the above issues should be more than enough to fuel Torrealba’s motivation for the upcoming season, but there is one more reason. It’s probably the biggest motivating factor. It’s a contract year. Assuming he’s not extended by the Rangers (which I can’t imagine he will be), Torrealba is a free agent after the 2012 season. At the start of the 2013 season Yorvit will be almost 35 years old. Not a lot of teams are looking to invest much into a 35 year old catcher that’s never hit more than 8 homeruns in a season.
I think all of these things added together will drive Yorvit’s desire and level of play. Make no mistake, he’s not going to take at bats away from Mike Napoli, but I do expect him to make the most of the playing time he gets. After all, it could be his last legitimate chance at a deep post season run.