Humberto Quintero is the type of player a manager probably just loves, hardworking and no excuses will ever be spoken by the veteran backstop. “Q” as he is known around the Astros and their fanbase should have never started as many games as he has but due to injury, he did and played admirably. He has been a true warrior for the Astros ever since coming over for the once top prospect Tim Redding. Sadly, his tenure with the Houston Astros maybe coming to an end in 2012. With the signing of Chris Snyder over the winter, the belief was that “Q” would have had to play great ball during the spring to win a spot on the 25 man roster. Early back and leg issues along with hot hitting by Chris Snyder have already put him well behind in the race for a catching spot. If this is the end for Quintero, it’s been a fun ride but his limitations seem to have finally caught up with him after all these years of being a dependable option for the Astros.
When Chris Snyder signed with the Astros, it should have been evident that Quintero might be in trouble. Jason Castro, the Astros catcher of the present and future, was, at that point, supposed to be out until opening day and maybe a bit after, so the signing was needed. The issue was that even if Jason wasn’t ready by opening day, he would be back and a decision would have to be made whenever he returned. Jason’s recovery has been accelerated and the obvious decision will have to come much sooner than the Stros expected. Snyder has been an everyday catcher and has had moments of very good offensive production which already puts him well ahead of “Q” and maybe even Castro. The Astros haven’t had a good offensive catcher since Mitch Meluskey, yes, remember him, and that’s one of the reasons Ed Wade drafted Castro so high with his 1st draft selection as the Astros’ GM. Snyder would fix that issue immediately and give the Astros something they haven’t had in a very long time, an offensive threat behind home plate. In fact, if not for Snyder’s health after last season, I believe he would be the clear option to start at catcher and Castro would be grooming behind him one more year.
Quintero’s edge comes on the defensive side of the game and it has been a pleasure to see him behind the plate. Pitchers like to throw to him and the thought has been that base runners hate to move on his right arm. The problem for Quintero is that even that side of his game has been overrated and in some cases greatly. We associate Humberto with his ability to make incredible throws to gun down runners all over the diamond but the reality is that in 2011 he threw out only 23% percent of runners who attempted to steal against him. The sample size wasn’t even that small as 43 baserunners tried to steal on Quintero- which means runners weren’t afraid to run against him and usually made it. Obviously, the pitching staff had something to do with it but the fact so many tried is a bad sign. Castro’s reputation is as a defensive wiz and a great game caller, so he should be able to do at least as well as Humberto, if not better, this season. Snyder may not be viewed as a wiz behind the plate but his offense should offset that and he isn’t all that bad defensively, as is.
Humberto has been such a key figure when the Astros have needed him after injuries and performance issues but his limitations have always kept him from being a serious contender for any long term action. Could Brad Mills and Jeff Luhnow take three catchers into Houston, sure, but even then, I don’t see it lasting very long. As the club improves, some of the faces we’ve come accustomed to may be a victim of the process. Jason Castro’s time is coming and Chris Snyder was a great acquisition, all that will most likely leave Humberto on the outside looking in.