2023 Cubs Season Report Cards: Catchers
Rick Osentoski - USA Today Sports

2023 Cubs Season Report Cards: Catchers

by - Senior Writer -

Now that the Cubs offseason has officially begun, it is time to look back at the year in Chicago as they finished the season 83-79 and one game shy of a playoff berth. Considering that most felt this was a 75-76 win team, this season was a success, but also a failure at the same time.

On September 6, not only did the Cubs have a shot at winning the division, but they had a 90% chance to make the postseason and were on pace for 90 wins. Then came one of the worst, if not the worst, slumps of the season as the Cubs won just five of their last 18 games and fell from the No. 2 Wild Card team to out of the playoffs altogether. It was a disappointing end, but a season worth building off of as they prep for 2024.

A big reason for this team's overall improvement was the improved play by several of the players this season, as they did a great job sticking together. Some of that was predicated on players having career years, but it was also a mix of players living up to their potential and learning to adjust and learn on the fly.

Today marks the start of our year-end report card series as we will break down each position, and how they played this season, starting with the catchers.

Yan Gomes

When the Cubs elected to keep Willson Contreras around last season, only to let him walk in free agency in 2023, it was a gut punch, but one the Cubs were okay with taking. After all, Conteres has struggled defensively since he came into the league, and his average and overall production has declined over the past three years.

That alone made him an easy pass when signing free agents as the Cubs not only went with a cheaper route at Catcher, but went with veterans known for their defense. Take Yan Gomes, for example, who is approaching his age 37 season. Known for his ability to pitch frame and call a great game behind the dish, Gomes had a rough 2022, but the Cubs hoped he could provide them more production in 2023.

Not only did he provide that production, but Gomes became one of the Cub's best hitters in the clutch as he finished the season with a .267 batting average to go with 10 homers and 63 RBIs. The 63 RBIs was the second-highest total of his career, only behind his 74 from the 2014 season, as he made the fans quickly forget about Contreras.

Grade A:

How can you not give Gomes an A grade based on how he played? He was tremendous with the pitchers and their best hitter in the clutch, as he was the guy you wanted up to bat with the game on the line. You could argue that he was the team MVP this season, as the team wouldn't have been where they were without him. With a team option for 2024, I find it very unlikely that the Cubs will let him go next season, as he should be back for one more run with this group.

Miguel Amaya

One of the more surprising additions this season was seeing former top prospect Miguel Amaya added to the roster. Known for his vast injury history in the Minors, Amaya was always seen as the Catcher of the future for this team, but was pushed aside due to the injuries he sustained.

After Gomes hit the IL with a concussion, the Cubs needed a catcher and thus selected Amaya after hitting a .293 with five homers in 28 minor league games. He wouldn't return to the minors after that, as Amaya started plenty of games this season and showed the ability to catch and call games and some pop.

Across 53 games with the Cubs, the hits were sparse as he managed to hit just .214, but with five homers and 18 RBIs, he tended to do some damage when he put the ball in play. This offseason will be crucial for him as he will most likely be the Cubs backup catcher next season.

Grade: C

Amaya has always been an interesting topic in the Cubs system, but one who never reached his full potential. Following his surprise promotion to the majors, Amaya has reached that potential and will only look to improve. Offensively, he has always shown the ability to hit, and that was no different here. His big thing is learning to call a game consistently, as he will need plenty of defensive work this offseason.

Tucker Barnhardt

With Gomes going from backup catcher to starter early in the offseason, the Cubs were in the market for backup help and signed Tucker Barnhardt to a two-year deal. Expected to split time with Gomes most of the season, Barnhardt got off to a slow start and was never able to recover.

Not only did Gomes emerge as the near-everyday catcher, but with a .202 average, one homer, and nine RBIs, Barnhardt was pushed to third on the depth chart, with Amaya also passing him up. No one said Barnhardt was a great player, but in his defense, he is a much better player than he showed this season, which is the primary reason the Cubs parted ways with him.

Grade: F

This will go down as one of the worst offseason moves for the Cubs, but it is one they can live with. At the time, no one knew how good Gomes would be, and Barnhardt, at the very least, had a positive track record with the Reds. Unfortunately, that track record never panned out, and Barnhardt was released in favor of Amaya.

The Cubs also had Luis Torrens on their team earlier in the season, but they parted ways with him less than a month in as he will receive an incomplete grade.

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