The backup catcher role for the San Francisco Giants has shifted hands quite a few times in the past couple of seasons, and Tim Federowicz looks to keep the trend alive and snatch the spot currently held by Trevor Brown.
While Bruce Bochy was settling in as manager of the San Francisco Giants, Tim Federowicz was leading the powerhouse University of North Carolina Tarheels to three straight appearances in the College World Series.
In his three seasons as a Tarheel, Federowicz hit .319 with 21 home runs and 175 RBIs, earning the nomination of a first-team Freshman All-American in 2006 and winning the ACC Conference Championship in 2007.
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In the seventh round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Boston Red Sox selected Federowicz with the 232nd overall pick. Federowicz spent three seasons in Boston’s farm system before the team coupled him in a seven-player, three-team trade which sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011.
Los Angeles assigned Federowicz to the Albuquerque Isotopes immediately following the trade and brought him up to the big league team as a September call-up. Federowicz would see some time with the Dodgers in each season from 2011 to 2014, but played 239 games with Albuquerque compared to 89 with Los Angeles.
There was a clear contrast between his performance with Albuquerque and Los Angeles. Federowicz hit very well with the Isotopes, but slashed .194/.247/.300 with five home runs in 271 career plate appearances with the Dodgers.
Federowicz was in competition to be San Diego’s backup catcher for 2015 in spring training, but suffered a tear in the lateral meniscus of his right knee, which sidelined him until August. Upon his recovery, the catcher finished out the season playing five games with the Class-A Fort Wayne TinCaps and 22 with the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas.
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In the ensuing offseason, Federowicz signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago Cubs. He began the 2016 season with the Iowa Cubs, but appeared in 17 games for Chicago, enough to earn him a World Series ring despite not playing in the postseason.
Federowicz’s career .194/.243/.295 slash line in 304 plate appearances at the big league level won’t be enough for the San Francisco Giants to favor him over Trevor Brown, who has a .236/.282/.354 slash line in 227 plate appearances.
Brown flashed a bit of potential with the bat in his first full season as a reserve last year, slugging 5 home runs in 184 plate appearances, four of which came against divisional rivals.
Furthermore, Brown is excellent defensively and San Francisco’s pitching staff, aside from Mark Melancon, is familiar with the 25-year-old behind the plate.
The case for Federowicz rests primarily in the minor leagues, as he has a career batting average of .290 with an OPS of .815 and 78 home runs to boot. While big numbers in the minor leagues are not an indication of a player’s performance in the majors, worth noting is that Federowicz hit .320 with 39 home runs while playing for Albuquerque, whose ballpark dimensions challenge the pitcher-friendly confines of AT&T Park.
Federowicz is exceptional defensively as well, coupling great footwork with a strong arm. As a former catcher, Bruce Bochy will mainly keep an eye on the defensive prowess of both Brown and Federowicz.
Whether or not Federowicz makes the cut will again depend on how he fares against Brown this upcoming spring. Federowicz’s offensive numbers in the majors do not help his case, but Brown is not too far ahead in that department.
However, Brown’s familiarity with the pitching staff cannot be understated. As a catcher, Brown’s chemistry with his battery-mate is a necessity, and puts him far ahead of Federowicz despite his brief time with the San Francisco Giants.
On paper, Brown versus Federowicz does not shape up to be the most exciting battle of the spring, ranking behind the battle for left field and the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but remains important nonetheless.
One of these men will have the duty of backing up a reigning MVP. And with similar play styles, who stays and who goes will depend on — in large part — offensive production in Scottsdale.