When Yasmani Grandal went down with a knee injury in early July, White Sox catching depth took a major hit. Zack Collins looked poised to become the starting catcher for the time being, but the promotion of Seby Zavala proved defense is at a premium behind the plate. Few thought a career minor leaguer like Zavala would propel himself into a consistent defensive option as the backstop on a first-place team, but this is the position the White Sox find themselves in.
As for Collins, he had the opportunity to catch 2-3 games per week in the beginning of the season, but Zavala has cut into that workload by starting eight of the last ten games. This shift in deployment is indicative of where the White Sox front office may go come playoff time. Collins has played in 59 games this season and his slash line of .208/.330/.356 only implies he knows how to walk. The power numbers are not there at the dish this year, which was supposed to be one of his noted strengths as he worked his way to the big league club.
Furthermore, Collins ranks second-to-last among 92 catchers with a minimum of 100 qualifying pitches caught in Runs Extra Strikes, only ahead of Salvador Pérez of the division rival Kansas City Royals. His low ranking in this statistical category displays how poor Collins is at framing. He also ranks 88th amongst qualified catchers (minimum 100 pitches) in strike percentage. Either Collins catches some pretty inaccurate pitchers (he does not), or he is dragging strikes out of the zone. This is pivotal, considering the starting pitching staff on the White Sox.
Now, Zavala is not a household name, but he ranks 34th and 21st in Runs Extra Strikes and strike percentage, respectively. His three home runs on Saturday were probably just as shocking to him as it was to the White Sox fans, but it could have been the final nail in the coffin on Collins’s catching contention in the 2021 playoffs.
Once Grandal returns in September, the White Sox roster will expand to 28, so they will more than likely retain all three catchers. However, Zavala may have earned his way into a defensive backup role in the playoffs. If Grandal needs a rest, Zavala’s defense and framing become much more critical than the occasional walk Collins can draw. Since this seems to be the only asset Collins has on his side, the White Sox will probably move on and keep the premium on defense from the catcher position.