With the 2021 season having come to a close, we are looking back at the year that was for members of the Texas Rangers.
Today we are looking at catcher Jose Trevino.
Everyone loves Jose Trevino. Texas native, great guy, high character, hard worker, gives back to the community. Drafted in the sixth round in 2014 out of Oral Roberts — where he caught a few games as a junior but mostly played shortstop — the Rangers had him split time between the infield and catcher in Spokane before having him move exclusively behind the plate in 2015 with Hickory.
Trevino moved up the ladder steadily, going from low-A Hickory in 2015 to high-A High Desert in 2016, spending some time in the Arizona Fall League both years, then Frisco in 2017. The reviews on Trevino were consistent throughout this time...high makeup guy, excellent defender and game caller, terrific with the pitchers, questions about the bat.
2017 saw Trevino hit his first major bump as a professional. He hadn’t been great with the bat in A ball, but he was okay, posting an OPS above 700 with Spokane, Hickory and High Desert. In his first taste of AA ball, Trevino struggled mightily offensively, slashing .241/.275/.323 in 423 plate appearances. His defense still earned rave reviews, but a sub-600 OPS from a 24 year old in AA is a problem, even if he’s a great defensive catcher. Nevertheless, he showed enough to be added to the 40 man roster that offseason.
2018 and 2019 were both difficult years for Trevino, who had issues both with hitting and staying healthy. He slashed .234/.284/.332 in 201 plate appearances with Frisco, as well as making his major league debut that year (appearing in three games for the Rangers in June). Right after Trevino was sent back down to Frisco after his brief stint in the bigs, he had shoulder surgery, which cost him the remainder of 2018.
2019 saw Trevino start the season at AAA Nashville, land on the injured list in mid-May with a strained quad, spend a couple of weeks rehabbing in late June and early July with the AZL squad, then return to Nashville in mid-July. Texas called him up at the beginning of August, and he was up for the remainder of the year. Trevino slashed just .226/.263/.336 in AAA, but put up a .258/.272/.383 line in the big leagues in 126 plate appearances, and there was some hope that he the bat was coming around. Trevino’s 83 plate appearances in the majors in 2020 bolstered those hopes, as he slashed .250/.280/.434 — a line that, with his defense, was acceptable, though his season was cut short in early September due to a wrist injury.
Trevino came into the 2021 season as the starting catcher, and more or less held onto that role until he landed on the injured list at the end of June after a fall in his bathroom. Trevino missed a month with that injury, and shared catching duties with Jonah Heim the rest of the way, save for when Heim was on the COVID-19 injured list.
And 2021 for Jose Trevino was, well, pretty much in line with his track record. He earned raves for his defense, his leadership, his pitcher handling. He missed some time with an injury. And he didn’t really hit — he slashed .239/.267/.340 for the year, good for a 64 wRC+. He was above replacement level according to both Fangraphs and B-R due to his defense — his +15.0 defense on Fangraphs placed him 8th in the majors among catchers, even though he had less playing time than everyone ahead of him except his teammate, Jonah Heim, who was at +15.6 — and the only two catchers at +16.5 or higher were Sean Murphy at +19.1 and Max Stassi at +17.1. But he was only a shade above replacement level, coming in at 0.6 fWAR and 0.1 bWAR.
If we look at Statcast, we see Trevino graded as elite in framing (96th percentile), with a sprint speed like a catcher (12th percentile) and a .285 xwOBA. That xwOBA suggests that he was better with the bat in 2021 than the results indicate, which is encouraging, but it still isn’t good — he’s 268th out of 309 major league hitters with at least 250 PAs in 2021 in xwOBA. Oh, and one of the guys he’s ahead of is Jonah Heim at .284, so...
The book on Trevino has always been he will end up making the majors because of his defense, and his role and how long he sticks around will be dependent on his bat. Trevino just turned 29 years old, and while there is still the possibility of growth, its likely that at this point he is what he is — a glove first backup catcher at the major league level.
That being said, the Rangers are one of the teams that put a premium on catcher defense and pitcher handling, and Trevino (as well as Heim) apparently graded out very well in that regard in 2021, which is likely one reason why you haven’t heard a lot of talk about finding a new starting catcher this offseason. Catcher defense — particularly the “softer” elements of it, like working with pitchers and game preparation — is something I’m not going to pretend I have any idea how to evaluate, and so it may be that the Rangers feel that the overall value Trevino and Heim bring make them satisfactory options, at least for now.
2022 likely will have Jose Trevino catching a lot of games for Texas, probably not hitting a lot, and earning raves for his defense. And that will probably provide him with a long major league career.