Angels GM Tony Reagins showed up on MLB Network Radio Thursday, telling ex-GM Jim Bowden that Hank Conger (pictured) will be competing for the starting catcher's job along with Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson.
Conger, 23 on Saturday, is one of the game's best prospects and is capable defensively of sticking behind the plate. That's important, as his bat can't be ignored. For Triple-A in 2010, Conger hit .300/.385/.463 with 11 home runs in 452 plate appearances.
And he's already the best catcher on the team, so if he doesn't win the starting job, something very wrong is going on with the Angels. Then again, after a series of bizarre decisions in the offseason, something very wrong is already going on, so you can't put it past the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to make the right call.
Manager Mike Scioscia loves Jeff Mathis, and played him repeatedly over Mike Napoli the last few years. It might be no different with Conger, but unlike the heralded prospect, Mathis cannot hit. Period.
For all of the platitudes about his defense coming out of Angels camp, the fact remains: Mathis hit .195/.219/.278 in 218 plate appearances. And the year prior, he had a .211/.288/.308 line in 272 PA. His career OPS across 1,079 PA is .576. He cannot hit, nor will he ever be able to hit.
Meanwhile, Bobby Wilson -- nine days Mathis' junior -- more than 10 plate appearances with the Angels for the first time. He made 109 trips to the plate and hit .229/.288/.417. A darn sight better than Mathis, but Wilson can't exactly rake it, either. The year before Conger handled Triple-A, Wilson had 381 PA at the level and hit .271/.316/.398.
The ideal situation here -- unless the Angels don't care about winning, and whatever you say about their decisions, you can't say they aren't committed to winning -- is to have Conger start, with Mathis backing up. While Mathis might steal the odd game or two from Conger, it will keep the rookie healthy and the Angels can benefit from Mathis' strong defense behind the plate. Wilson might have a nice career as a backup catcher, but for now all he should serve as is insurance.
Now, watch Conger get optioned to the minors, with Mathis starting and Wilson backing up. It's par for the course these days at Angel Stadium.
-- Evan Brunell