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2022 in review: Meibrys Viloria

The mystery backup catcher

MLB: AUG 23 Rangers at Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2022 regular season over, it is that time where we go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this past season.

Today, we look at catcher Meibrys Viloria.

Remember Meibrys Viloria? He was on the active roster for over two months — and yet, he’s probably going to be the most-forgotten answer several years from now when we are doing the 2022 Texas Rangers Sporcle Quiz.

Viloria is also part of that Royals/Rangers axis, that connection derived from sharing spring training facilities in Surprise, and thus giving each organization a greater degree of familiarity with the other organization’s players. At least, in theory.

Viloria had spent his entire career with the Royals prior to signing with the Rangers as a minor league free agent last winter. The pathway to major league playing time for a catcher in mid-March seemed cluttered and winding, what with Mitch Garver being acquired via trade, Jonah Heim and Jose Trevino fighting for a backup spot, and Sam Huff lurking in the background.

We know how all that turned out...Trevino was traded to the New York Yankees and made the All Star team, Mitch Garver got hurt (as is his wont), Sam Huff needed more regular reps than he was getting in a part-time role in the majors...

And like that, it was Meibrys Viloria time.

Oh boy.

In fairness, Viloria was off to a hot start with AAA Round Rock, slashing .344/.471/.512 in the first two months of AAA action. And Viloria had a reputation for being a solid defensive catcher, which is part of the reason he was able to accumulate 200 plate appearances with the Royals despite a 554 OPS. Plus he was just 25, catchers sometimes are late bloomers, so...maybe?

In a major league journey that seemed like a half dozen 2022 Rangers also followed, Viloria started off well and then fell off the map. He had two hits in his first game with the Rangers, and after six-plus weeks in the majors, was slashing .303/.425/.515.

Of course, that six weeks included the All Star Break, and Jonah Heim was catching most of the time, so Viloria started just 10 games in that stretch. He had just 40 plate appearances. But, you know, having a 940 OPS after 40 plate appearances is better than having a 500-something OPS after 40 plate appearances.

The 940 OPS was after a game against the ChiSox where he was two for three with a walk. The next day, Viloria was in the lineup as the starting DH against Lucas Giolito.

It was the beginning of the end.

I blame Meibrys Viloria being in the lineup as a DH for what happened afterwards. I have no logical basis for that, but you know, if I want to create my own reality, dammit, I should be allowed to. And so I’ve decided that, in my reality, that somehow, being put in the starting lineup as the designated hitter is what doomed Meibrys Viloria. It makes for a very dramatic plot point.

Anyway, Viloria’s start at DH was on August 7. hHe was 0 for 4 with two Ks that day. On September 5, the Rangers optioned Viloria and recalled Sam Huff, who was the guy they originally sent down to make room on the active roster for Viloria.

From August 7 until he was sent down on September 5, Meibrys Viloria did not get a hit. Viloria was 0 for 30 with four walks and a sac fly. That’s 35 plate appearances without a hit. He did have 16 strikeouts, though, for what that’s worth.

Viloria did not return after being sent down on September 5. His final line was slash line was .159/.280/.270, good for a 63 wRC+. Oh, and his xwOBA of .243 was lower than his actual wOBA of .256, so we can’t even blame the bad offense on balls finding gloves.

Here’s the punchline, though...

Viloria was tied for 8th on the team in fWAR among position players. He had a 0.7 fWAR, tying him with Mark Mathias. And he had a 0.4 bWAR to go with it.

How? He was a good pitcher framer, and he threw out 7 of 15 baserunners trying to steal. His defensive metrics were terrific, meaning that, despite the godawful offensive performance, he was, by both versions of WAR, better than replacement level.

Viloria was waived after the World Series, claimed by the San Francisco Giants, and then was non-tendered a week later. In early December, he signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Guardians, and will presumably spend the 2023 season in AAA, waiting for an opportunity, be it with Cleveland or somewhere else.

Viloria will probably still be around a decade from now, signing minor league deals each offseason, providing veteran insurance behind the plate at AAA, getting a handful of major league games here and there while bouncing around. And we’ll see his name occasionally, in a AAA box score or in a transaction mid-season, and say, “Meibrys Viloria...wait, wasn’t he with the Rangers?”


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