If you would have told me last year that the Brewers were going to be playoff contenders in 2017, I would have laughed at you. I am sure a number of you felt the same way. In and with that, if you would have told me Manny Pina would be a key piece to that playoff chasing team’s puzzle, I would probably have thought twice before talking sports with you again. Well, if you were that person who predicted both of these things, you more than likely have super powers and I would appreciate it if you could use those powers to fix some things in society instead of settling for random sports insights.
Pina started off as a catcher in the Texas Rangers organization in 2004 and was traded to the Kansas City Royals organization in 2009. When he was 24, Pina was called up to the Royals and played in 4 games. He was called up the next year as well and only participated in 1 game and was granted free agency at the end of the year. Manny then signed with the Seattle Mariners in 2013, but was stored in the minors and traded to the Detroit Tigers in that same season. Finally, Pina found himself a home. In 2015, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers as a “player to be named later” along with Javier Betancourt for Francisco Rodriguez. Manny spent the front half of the 2016 season with Milwaukee’s AAA affiliate, Colorado Springs, but was called into action when former all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy was traded to the Texas Rangers.
Manny played sparingly in the back half of the 2016 season for the Brewers. He appeared in 33 games as he split time with Martin Maldonado who is now with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Pina hit a respectable .254/.346/.394 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI in 81 plate appearances, but the 29 year old catcher was not viewed as an integral part of the Brewers’ roster going forward. In fact, there were rumblings about the Brewers looking elsewhere at the catcher position. In the same year Pina was called up to the Brewers, the club traded for Andrew Susac from the San Francisco Giants who was viewed as useful player for the future. Along with that, the Brewers made a straight swap of the aforementioned Martin Maldonado for fellow catcher Jett Bandy. If that was not enough to doubt Manny getting playing time, all-star Matt Wieters was available on the free agent heap and the Brewers were rumored to be in on the sweepstakes.
156 games later, Andrew Susac is on the MLB roster, but is there because of September call-ups, Jett Bandy hit .206 over 59 games, and Matt Wieters is a Washington National. Through all of that, 30 year old rookie catcher Manny Pina has played in 107 games and has hit .279/.324/.424 with 9 home runs, and 43 RBI. On the defensive end, Manny is 10th in the MLB in defensive wins above replacement, 4th in least amount of passed balls, and 1st in catcher pickoffs. He has bolstered himself as a solid part of the lineup and a very good defensive catcher.
Now the question remains: Is Manny Pina the catcher of the future? The knock against him is that he is 30 years old, but Pina does not have a lot of mileage on him. In fact, he is actually considered a rookie this year based on service. His ability to throw runners out, let alone, keep them honest through his ability to pick them off have proved as a major tool in his success this year. As mentioned before, he leads the MLB in catcher pickoffs and he is 10th in the NL in DWAR. These are extremely important numbers at the catcher position as it essentially puts a stop sign up for runners who may be thinking about stealing. He is no slouch at the plate either. On top of the stats that he has put out this year, Pina has come up with some timely hits over the course of the year with the most noteable being a Bill Hall-esque 3-run bomb on Mother’s’ Day to put the Brewers on top.
Manny Pina is an enigma. He goes from being a guy who was on the verge of being cut from the club, to being the primary catcher and flourishes in that position. He becomes the “next man up” for a team that was worried about the position. He may be a stop gap solution, but he may also be the future. Ultimately, Manny Pina has developed from a career minor leaguer into a legitimate starting option at the catcher position. As I said before, if you predicted this was going to happen, don’t hide those talents under a bushel.