Iannetta is coming off a down year at the dish. In 2015, he hit .188/.293/.335, with a wRC+ of 80, meaning he was 20% worse than league average with the bat. He is an above average catcher defensively, which is important to the Mariners since Dipoto arrived.
In 2013 and 2014, Iannetta was well above average as a hitter. He also has a lifetime on-base percentage of .351 and a career walk rate of 14.1%, so there’s a good chance he’ll bounce back and be a productive hitter in 2016. One of the reasons he hit so poorly last year was a very low .225 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). His career BABIP is .277. If you adjust Iannetta’s batting line to his career .277 BABIP, he would have hit .222/.323/.370. That’s still not great but it’s much better than any catcher on the Mariners hit last season.
It’s important to note just how bad the catchers on the Mariners were last year. As a group, the Mariners’ catchers were the least valuable group of catchers in baseball. They were worth negative two Wins Above Replacement (WAR). They combined to hit .159/.205/.259. All were the worst marks of any team’s catchers in the big leagues. The best of the bunch was Mike Zunino and he was sent to AAA during the season and not recalled when rosters expanded in September.
Here was the collection of garbage the Mariners had behind the dish last year, along with what Chris Iannetta did with the Angels:
Looking ahead to next season, the best-case scenario would be for Mike Zunino to take a step forward offensively and continue to be very good defensively. Chris Iannetta now provides the team with an adequate backup when Zunino takes a day off. Zunino needs to learn the strike zone, stop flailing away at bad pitches low and away, and make contact more often. He has great power. He hit 22 home runs in 2014, but a career .252 on-base percentage just isn’t going to cut it.
The due of Zunino and Iannetta should bring the Mariners up to respectability at the catcher position. They won’t be among the leaders, but they should now be in the middle-of-the-pack at the position.