The 26 year old Ontario native George Kottaras came to the Boston Red Sox scene in 2007 from the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox in a trade with the San Diego Padres for starting pitcher, David Wells. It took a season for Kottaras to adjust. He had great numbers in 2008 with the PawSox, belting 22 home runs with a .456 slugging percentage. George also played in three major league games with the Red Sox in 2008 going 1 for 5 with a double. The #2 overall prospect for San Diego in 2006 according to Baseball America was not satisfied and came back in 2009 as the back up catcher for Jason Varitek.
Kottaras is known primarily for being a power hitting catcher that hasn't had much of an opportunity to showcase himself by playing every five days to catch for knuckleballer, Tim Wakefield. George has done an amazing job learning how to keep the glove in front and wait for the knuckleball to come to him this season, especially given his experience catching another knuckleball pitcher in Steve Sparks during Kottaras' minor league career. George also shows great promise to be an everyday catcher when and if Varitek ever retires or leaves the Red Sox organization.
Sox Prospects had this to say about George Kottaras and his level of play:
Offensive-minded catcher with 20-25 home run power potential and good plate discipline. However, his patience at the plate has led to leaving his bat on his shoulder a bit too much. Takes advantage of mistake pitches. Doesn't make contact on a consistent-enough basis. Has been somewhat pull-happy historically. Behind the plate, Kottaras' glove skills have been called into question in the past, including his ability to throw out runners, his game calling ability, and his basic fundamentals. However, he's a very hard worker and takes to developmental coaching well, and as such his skills have improved during his time in the Sox system. His game calling ability has certainly improved, as several pitchers in the Sox system have grown very comfortable with Kottaras behind the dish. On the other hand, while his arm is strong, his throwing motion still lacks quickness, and he only throws about 20% of runners out. Good at blocking balls in the dirt, and gets to bunts and fly balls well. Has extended experience catching knuckleballers.
The Life of a Back Up
Kottaras is having a tough time at the plate in 2009 with Boston showing only a .200 average with no home runs for the club. The Red Sox have played George a few extra times than the normal every 5 game rotation giving him an opportunity to catch Daisuke Matsuzaka, testing his ability to catch a major league fastball as well as Wake's knuckler. Kottaras had a rough game catching Dice-K and let up six past balls and got run over by Carlos Gomez of the Twins. At the end of the game George said:
Yeah, but that's just part of the gig. After a game you should be exhausted. I'm going to leave it all on the field and do whatever I can to help the team win. We just didn't come out on top tonight.
I was blocking the plate and waiting for the throw, and as soon as I got the throw, he had nowhere else to go except through me. That's part of the game.
So far George Kottaras is a fan favorite at Fenway Park, but he needs to step his game up if he plans on playing in 162 games in a Boston Red Sox uniform in the future. The fact that he catches Wakefield is going to keep him around 100% in Boston, but he could save us a lot of money if he shows he's ready to catch and hit everyday at a major league level.
Thanks to Larry Coor for the picture of George Kottaras.