Due to an injury to catcher Chris Iannetta, the Angels called up John Hester to replace him. Hester made his Angels debut on Saturday. He started the year in the Orioles AAA affiliate but then spent 8 games with the Angels AAA affiliate.
In his minor league career, Hester has a .813 OPS with a respectable .186 ISO. In 239 AAA games (as a general rule, when one has that many AAA appearances, he isn’t a prospect and organizations are using him as depth and a bench player) he has a 1/2.56 BB/K ratio, not particularly good. He has split time in AAA with the IL and the PCL, so looking at his combined AAA stats would be extremely misleading considering the two leagues are so different when it comes to offense (the PCL is much more offensive friendly). Defensively, he has caught a respectable, but not particularly good, amount of runners at 29%. He gave up 8 passed balls last year, which is more than you want. In his short time in the big leagues (41 games in 2009-2010), he has caught just 15% of runners, and basically all defensive metrics have him as a negative fielder. Offensively, he hasn’t proved to be anything special, with a .297 W-OBA and .142 ISO. His career WAR is -.5, and while walked more than average, he struck out more than average. He has an above average Pitch/PA, with good line drive and flyball/ground-ball rates.
As mentioned above, his first Angels appearance was a start on Saturday. I decided to take a look at all of his at-bats on here.
His first at-bat, against Rangers’ lefty starter Matt Harrison, the right hander took a 94 MPH (it was good we got to see him against plus velocity, it gives you more of an idea of the kind of hitter Hester is) up an in for a ball, and then lined (the other way) a 92 MPH fastball for a hit.
I thought it was pretty impressive what he was able to do with the breaking ball that looked off the plate (pitch F/X said it was a pretty obvious strike). He probably shouldn’t have taken those two fastballs to start the count though.
As good as Harrison is, Hester faced a real test in his 3rd at-bat facing right handed flamethrower Alexi Ogando. Hester fouled a 97 MPH fastball off his foot before taking three outside sliders for balls (Ogando’s slider was pretty awful, much worse than usual). After being blown away by a 97 MPH that he had no chance of catching up to, Ogando tried to do the same exact thing. This time the pitch down the middle was hit for a pretty weak ground-ball, but it made Elvis Andrus drift just enough that he couldn’t make a throw to get anyone out.
The 4th at-bat was much more disappointing, as he faced lefty Robbie Ross, and chased a low cutter (that did have good movement) to strikeout.
How did he look defensively? He wasn’t exceptionally bad or good at framing pitches or blocking pitches. There really wasn’t many tests for Hester defensively. On a play where Craig Gentry stole on a breaking ball, Hester made a nice grab on the ball almost in the dirt and made a strong throw. Between the speed of Craig Gentry and the general ineptness (runners are 8 for 10 on the year against Wilson) of C.J. Wilson to keep runners from running, Gentry was easily safe.
Overall, it looks like Hester is a guy with a decent eye at the plate with some good bat skills. He doesn’t have much power, and it appears he isn’t all that good defensively, but from what I saw, it looks like he could be an above replacement catcher.