Is Connor Wong a starting catcher?

nvalvo

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Connor Wong is playing pretty well. Is he a starting catcher?

I'm less interested in divvying up his playing time with respect to Reese McGuire than I am in assessing whether he clears the bar to be a starting-type catcher. This question has a number of ramifications, both forward-looking, in thinking about the construction of the next Red Sox core, and backwards-looking, in evaluating the return Bloom got for one year of Mookie Betts. (If Bloom got $50m in payroll relief, six seasons of a starting outfielder and six seasons of a starting catcher for one year of Betts at $20m, that's pretty great. But it's less great if Wong isn't a starting-caliber catcher.)

Here are a few facts that I would like to start us off with.
  • MLB catchers are batting .237/.308/.379/.687 so far this season.
  • Connor Wong, after his great game Sunday afternoon, is hitting .250/.323/.375/.698, and, given that he had a poor first couple of weeks at the plate, that line reflects a positively torrid pace since the sweep in Tampa Bay.
  • Stolen bases are up sharply, for obvious reasons. Last season, baseball saw about 400 SB/month league wide. This April, that number will approach or could even exceed 600, depending on how many happen this weekend. They are succeeding at an 80% clip, which was the number teams used to aspire to.
  • Connor Wong is already, in just 147 innings through Saturday, +3 in rSB, stolen base runs: i.e. the value, denominated in runs, of his impact on the running game.
  • His pop times are magnificent.
  • Connor Wong personally has 4% of all CS recorded in MLB this season (6/151), in 2% of the innings caught (147/7263), as of Saturday.
  • Connor Wong is not terrible, but below average by most measures, at pitch framing.
  • His offensive profile is at best complicated: Good walk rate; bad K rate, with the chase and contact peripherals that one would expect; and fluctuating EV numbers, ranging from pretty good to pretty bad.
  • Wong has an .832 OPS in his minor league career.
  • He's among the fastest players on the team.
What do we think? What have we seen? How do people think about the standard of "a starting catcher" in this day and age?
 

Sandy Leon Trotsky

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Connor Wong is playing pretty well. Is he a starting catcher?

I'm less interested in divvying up his playing time with respect to Reese McGuire than I am in assessing whether he clears the bar to be a starting-type catcher. This question has a number of ramifications, both forward-looking, in thinking about the construction of the next Red Sox core, and backwards-looking, in evaluating the return Bloom got for one year of Mookie Betts. (If Bloom got $50m in payroll relief, six seasons of a starting outfielder and six seasons of a starting catcher for one year of Betts at $20m, that's pretty great. But it's less great if Wong isn't a starting-caliber catcher.)

Here are a few facts that I would like to start us off with.
  • MLB catchers are batting .237/.308/.379/.687 so far this season.
  • Connor Wong, after his great game Sunday afternoon, is hitting .250/.323/.375/.698, and, given that he had a poor first couple of weeks at the plate, that line reflects a positively torrid pace since the sweep in Tampa Bay.
  • Stolen bases are up sharply, for obvious reasons. Last season, baseball saw about 400 SB/month league wide. This April, that number will approach or could even exceed 600, depending on how many happen this weekend. They are succeeding at an 80% clip, which was the number teams used to aspire to.
  • Connor Wong is already, in just 147 innings through Saturday, +3 in rSB, stolen base runs: i.e. the value, denominated in runs, of his impact on the running game.
  • His pop times are magnificent.
  • Connor Wong personally has 4% of all CS recorded in MLB this season (6/151), in 2% of the innings caught (147/7263), as of Saturday.
  • Connor Wong is not terrible, but below average by most measures, at pitch framing.
  • His offensive profile is at best complicated: Good walk rate; bad K rate, with the chase and contact peripherals that one would expect; and fluctuating EV numbers, ranging from pretty good to pretty bad.
  • Wong has an .832 OPS in his minor league career.
  • He's among the fastest players on the team.
What do we think? What have we seen? How do people think about the standard of "a starting catcher" in this day and age?
i don’t remember who it was and it was likely a joke at the time… but some poster here said the most intriguing part of the deal was Wong. I joined the pile of laughing others but even if he turns in a few seasons of average catcher production it really does start to change the equation o the Betts deal
 

Lukiewerle

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Aug 1, 2006
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I will add that Wong is #3 in baseball in the new statcast Catcher's Caught Stealing Above Average metric (+3) , while Reese McGuire is tied for worst in the league (-2) amongst qualified Catchers. Small sample size caveat implied.

Edit: BatX projections for both: Wong: 231/280/371, McGuire: 230/285/325
 
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grimshaw

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Zips projects him as an 1.5 fWAR guy over the rest of the season at 314 PA at .255/.303/.422. which is exactly a league average bat. If you consider him a net positive on defense and a plus on the bases, I'd take that for a few years.

Even if he's not a total zero with the bat I think he has enough value as a stopgap. Plus he's played a bit of 2b/3b. If they spend up to the cap, I like him even more.
 

simplicio

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I will add that Wong is #3 in baseball in the new statcast Catcher's Caught Stealing Above Average metric (+3) , while Reese McGuire is tied for worst in the league (-2) amongst qualified Catchers. Small sample size caveat implied.
McGuire was top 10 by this metric last year (last place btw: Kevin Plawecki); I think his numbers are skewed currently by the organizational strategic failure at the beginning of the year; 2/3 of his steals allowed came in his first 3 games.
 

Benj4ever

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McGuire was top 10 by this metric last year (last place btw: Kevin Plawecki); I think his numbers are skewed currently by the organizational strategic failure at the beginning of the year; 2/3 of his steals allowed came in his first 3 games.
And, if memory serves, he didn't even try to throw out those 2 runners because the pitcher(s) involved didn't bother to hold them on first base.
 

Whoop-La White

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I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that the hamstring injury that shut Wong down for a couple of weeks toward the end of ST might have hampered his timing to start the season. His early ABs seemed to include an inordinate number of weak ground balls to 3B when he wasn’t striking out.

So long as he can throw well and handle the pitching staff, he’ll probably be given a long leash. Young catchers have a lot on their plate, and it's not unusual for the bat to take a while to come around. Christian Vazquez came up as an elite glove-first catcher who OPSed .632 in 1000 PAs across his first four seasons (interrupted by injury). In Jason Varitek’s first full season (1998, more or less a platoon with Hatteberg) his OPS remained below .700 until August.

I really like Wong. He has become my new favorite young player that I want to see turn into a great player. The fact that one of his best assets (strong and accurate throwing arm) plays extra well in a season with new rules that encourage base-stealing seems to be a bit of angelic fortune on his behalf.

He seems like a quiet guy, but apparently Rich Hill said on Bradford’s podcast that he thought Wong could emerge as a clubhouse leader, FWIW.
 

chawson

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So long as he can throw well and handle the pitching staff, he’ll probably be given a long leash. Young catchers have a lot on their plate, and it's not unusual for the bat to take a while to come around. Christian Vazquez came up as an elite glove-first catcher who OPSed .632 in 1000 PAs across his first four seasons (interrupted by injury). In Jason Varitek’s first full season (1998, more or less a platoon with Hatteberg) his OPS remained below .700 until August.
J.T. Realmuto, who was not much of a prospect and picked right around where Wong was in the third round of their respective drafts, hit .267/.297/.399, 89 wRC+ over his first 684 PAs, a 89 wRC+, with below-average defense.
 

mikcou

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J.T. Realmuto, who was not much of a prospect and picked right around where Wong was in the third round of their respective drafts, hit .267/.297/.399, 89 wRC+ over his first 684 PAs, a 89 wRC+, with below-average defense.
Realmuto may not have been a stud prospect, but its a bit unfair to compare him to Wong. After his 23 season in AAA, he was a top 75 guy. Wong hasnt shown up on a list ever and I dont think anyone has ever mentioned him being close.

Wong is 27. By then Realmuto had already posted two above average hitting seasons. Wong may end up being a nice player, but I dont see a real comparison to Realmuto here at all - JT was better regarded in the minors and was an established above average starter in a more typical time frame.
 

BaseballJones

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Boston's catching duo is pretty solid, as far as it goes.

This thread has already highlighted Wong's strengths. And McGuire, while not great defensively, is hitting .311/.340/.400/.740, 102 ops+. He seems well suited for Fenway. During his entire time with Boston (counting last year):

156 PA, .329/.366/.469/.835, 129 ops+

I don't think he'll continue to hit like that, but he seems to be a good fit offensively for this team. It's nice to have decent players at the C position.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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At this rate the thread title is gonna have to be updated to include all-star in front of catcher
 

scottyno

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Sox might have one of the best catching duos in baseball right now.
 

EricFeczko

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If wong continues to perform like Adley Rustchman, we might have a top 5 catcher on our hands.

More and more, the Mookie deal is looking fairly decent across the board -- trading an increasingly expensive FA for cheap talent to rebuild.
 

chawson

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There's a new Statcast metric on catcher throwing (aka caught stealing above average). Wong ranks third of 59 catchers. McGuire 59th of 59.

Wong
Pop time: 1.88 seconds (3rd)
Exchange time: 0.71 seconds (27th)
Arm strength: 82.9 mph (7th)

McGuire
Pop time: 2.01 seconds (44th)
Exchange time: 0.74 seconds (42nd)
Arm strength: 77.4 mph (38th)
 

jbupstate

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There's a new Statcast metric on catcher throwing (aka caught stealing above average). Wong ranks third of 59 catchers. McGuire 59th of 59.

Wong
Pop time: 1.88 seconds (3rd)
Exchange time: 0.71 seconds (27th)
Arm strength: 82.9 mph (7th)

McGuire
Pop time: 2.01 seconds (44th)
Exchange time: 0.74 seconds (42nd)
Arm strength: 77.4 mph (38th)
McGuire is being killed by the start of the season when the pitchers didn’t have a plan to hold runners.
 

Lose Remerswaal

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There's a new Statcast metric on catcher throwing (aka caught stealing above average). Wong ranks third of 59 catchers. McGuire 59th of 59.

Wong
Pop time: 1.88 seconds (3rd)
Exchange time: 0.71 seconds (27th)
Arm strength: 82.9 mph (7th)

McGuire
Pop time: 2.01 seconds (44th)
Exchange time: 0.74 seconds (42nd)
Arm strength: 77.4 mph (38th)
Three one hundredths of a second moves ya from 27th to 42nd
 

richgedman'sghost

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If wong continues to perform like Adley Rustchman, we might have a top 5 catcher on our hands.

More and more, the Mookie deal is looking fairly decent across the board -- trading an increasingly expensive FA for cheap talent to rebuild.
Don't tell that to @Seels or JMOH. They still hate the trade and Seels refuses to even follow the team anymore. He hates Chaim Bloom and thinks John Henry and Fenway Sports Group are a bunch of cheapskates who refused to spend money on a once in a generation type talent.
 

Bleedred

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Loving Wong's production but are we getting a little over our skis with the all-star talk? We're talking about 3 solid weeks at the plate...classic SSS, particularly given his history to date. I'm thrilled with him and excited for his potential in the immortal words of Winston Wolf "He may be Connor Wong and he solves problems" but at the same time, "Let's not go sucking each other's d*cks just yet."
 

Lose Remerswaal

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Loving Wong's production but are we getting a little over our skis with the all-star talk? We're talking about 3 solid weeks at the plate...classic SSS, particularly given his history to date. I'm thrilled with him and excited for his potential in the immortal words of Winston Wolf "He may be Connor Wong and he solves problems" but at the same time, "Let's not go sucking each other's d*cks just yet."
I'm guessing at least half of those posters were joking about how quickly we DO get over our skis here.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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TBH, I was talking about myself, though. I have no idea if the other guy was serious or not and had I seen his comment I'd like to think I wouldn't have parroted it right after
If you’re talking about me, yes very much not serious. I do love him though
 

YTF

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I'm guessing at least half of those posters were joking about how quickly we DO get over our skis here.
100%. That said, how exciting is it to see this sort of flurry from him here in the bigs? I have to admit that I just took a look at his B ref minor league stats and I have to say that they were better than I thought they might be and keep in mind that there was no 2020 season. IF what he did in the minors starts translating to the majors we MAY have some nice, cost controlled production from behind the plate for the next few years.
https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=wong--000con
 

Lose Remerswaal

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I haven't been this excited about the offensive potential of a Red Sox catcher since either Roger LaFrancois hit .400 for the team in the early 1980s, or maybe Bob Montgomery in 1973 when his Strat-o-Matic Card seemed to be half filled with Extra Base Hits
 

nvalvo

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I also don’t think he’s an All Star in a league with Adley Rutschman and Sal Perez in it, but… what history?

Basically, his only stint at any level where he was bad at the plate for any length of time was 56 PAs in the majors last season. Wong’s line across the minors was .276/.337/.496. He was age-appropriate for his levels, too, at least until the lost 2020 minor league season screwed everything up.
 

OurF'ingCity

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BRef’s defensive metrics love him - according to BRef he’s provided the most defensive value in all of MLB so far this season and he’s 14th overall among non-pitchers in bWAR.

That seems a little much, but it’s fair to say he should at least be in the All-Star conversation at this early point in the season.
 

nvalvo

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I think Wong’s profile among Sox fans has been hurt by how mad everyone is/was about the Betts trade, and how Downs failed to work out.

He’s been a good prospect the whole time. He does have a high strikeout, high power profile, so that yields a huge range of outcomes, but the very good outcomes were always plausible. He had 55 XBH in 465 PA across two levels in 2019. That’s pretty good!
 

Just a bit outside

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I also don’t think he’s an All Star in a league with Adley Rutschman and Sal Perez in it, but… what history?

Basically, his only stint at any level where he was bad at the plate for any length of time was 56 PAs in the majors last season. Wong’s line across the minors was .276/.337/.496. He was age-appropriate for his levels, too, at least until the lost 2020 minor league season screwed everything up.
Not that it will matter for an all star team but Sal Perez should be a permanent DH. Guy is a terrible catcher at this point.
 

azsoxpatsfan

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Not that it will matter for an all star team but Sal Perez should be a permanent DH. Guy is a terrible catcher at this point.
I was looking at pop times after someone posted about Wong being third. Perez is dead last in both pop times and transfer time
 

grimshaw

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Whither Sandy Leon? Maybe the most inexplicable stretch of sustained hot hitting - like Piazza on steroids (tongue in cheek) in the history of catchers.
As a reminder, over 198 PA he pulled off a cool /.350/.405/.571. Had his streak started in April, he would have been the worst player to be an all-star of all time. I'm still angry.

That said, Wong has an arm that gives him a really nice floor of back up catcher at worst. Which is still a win.
 
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Madmartigan

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I haven't been this excited about the offensive potential of a Red Sox catcher since either Roger LaFrancois hit .400 for the team in the early 1980s, or maybe Bob Montgomery in 1973 when his Strat-o-Matic Card seemed to be half filled with Extra Base Hits
Ryan Lavarnway’s two homers in 2011 game 161 had me thinking we might have something special here, but alas.
 

Seels

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Don't tell that to @Seels or JMOH. They still hate the trade and Seels refuses to even follow the team anymore. He hates Chaim Bloom and thinks John Henry and Fenway Sports Group are a bunch of cheapskates who refused to spend money on a once in a generation type talent.
This is cute.

He was bad last year, bad to start this year, but hey he had one good three game stretch so we should act like he's the next Johnny Bench or something.

I'll own it if he actually has a good year that is anything like his current stats. But maybe let the guy perform for a bit.

You seem really obsessed with my feelings towards Bloom and Henry.
 

Rovin Romine

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100%. That said, how exciting is it to see this sort of flurry from him here in the bigs? I have to admit that I just took a look at his B ref minor league stats and I have to say that they were better than I thought they might be and keep in mind that there was no 2020 season. IF what he did in the minors starts translating to the majors we MAY have some nice, cost controlled production from behind the plate for the next few years.
https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=wong--000con
His 2022 AAA campaign was excellent for a catching prospect. His 2022 ML stint was odd if you look at his use logs - lots of subbing. He hit RHP well, but was cold against LHP. SSS and all that, but his current production isn't out of line with his MiL numbers.
 

BaseballJones

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He's currently #8 in all of MLB among catchers with 1.9 bWAR, and that's with him having an ops+ of 92. He's accumulated 1.5 dWAR this season, by far the best on the team. Dude is fantastic behind the plate. If his offense even gets to average levels, he immediately becomes an absolutely ELITE baseball player. He's not that far off right now.