Over the offseason, Camden Chat published an article about each member of the Orioles 40-man roster. During the 2022 season, we will update on new arrivals after they make it to the roster.
When he arrived: Minor league signing 12/6/21, contract selected 4/6/22
Who left: Tanner Scott/Cole Sulser (traded to Marlins 4/3/22)
In a world not tremendously different from this one, the Orioles might have just put top prospect Adley Rutschman on the Opening Day roster, like many other teams have decided to do with their top prospects. The entire spring training storyline of “Who will be the backup catcher until Rutschman arrives?” would have become moot. Rutschman would have been the guy, Robinson Chirinos the backup, and that would be that.
Instead, Rutschman’s triceps became sore after a minor league scrimmage a few weeks before the regular season began. He hasn’t played in any game, spring or regular season, majors or minors, since that time. Someone had to back up Chirinos. And so we have Anthony Bemboom, who beat out other competitors including Jacob Nottingham and Beau Taylor, for the “backup until Adley is here” job.
Bemboom, who turned 32 years old over the offseason, was originally an Angels draft pick in the 22nd round back in 2012. This is a round that seems like it will no longer exist any more. He was the kind of guy who slowly ascended the minor league ladder, arriving in Triple-A towards the end of the 2016 season. The Rockies grabbed Bemboom in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft, then never brought him up from Triple-A.
Three years ago, Bemboom finally got his MLB break at age 29. The Rays, who had signed him as a minor league free agent the previous offseason, selected Bemboom and had him hang around to play in three games, long enough to get his first big league hit. When the Rays sent Bemboom to the great DFA in the sky, his original team, the Angels, swooped in to claim him, where he’s appeared sporadically over the past three seasons.
It all adds up to the 2022 season being the fourth of Bemboom’s career. He has played in a total of 55 games in that time, compiled all of 146 plate appearances and 365 big league innings behind home plate. In his career to date, he has hit like a guy who becomes the backup catcher when someone else gets hurt, batting .176/.238/.282 in his scattered and limited action.
When Bemboom made it onto the roster, I wondered, “Why him?” The answer to that probably lies in his prowess at controlling the running game. Over his big league career, he’s cut down 41% of would-be base-stealers. The MLB average in the same timeframe has been 26%. That’s a big gap. It’s even bigger compared to last year’s starter Pedro Severino (23% in 2021).
This could be small sample size funkiness, but it is matched by his minor league performance. A number of minor league seasons saw Bemboom’s caught stealing rate at 37% or better.
Again with small sample sizes, Bemboom also checks out decently when looking at pitch framing ability. Over his career, he’s notched a modest +4 runs as measured by Statcast’s catcher framing. Severino’s Orioles tenure concluded at -19 runs from framing. Austin Wynns was not so good at it either (-7 runs), nor was Chance Sisco (-12 runs).
Even compared to that trio of recent Orioles catchers, Bemboom’s career hitting numbers are poor. He has a .520 OPS. Sisco’s at .654 for his career, while Wynns checks in at .580; Severino is the best of the bunch at .677.
For a guy who might only play one game each week for only a month until (we hope) Rutschman arrives and displaces him, the hitting is not so important as whether he can do competent or better defensively when called upon. There is enough in Bemboom’s career to believe he should be capable of this. The Orioles probably were aware of that when they gave him a minor league contract back in December and when they chose him for the Opening Day roster last week, so here he is.
One final anecdote may best illustrate Bemboom’s current position in the organization. My fianceé finds his name fun to say, and we both enjoy a baseball player having “boom” in his last name. When players were introduced in Monday’s home opener, we were listening for Bemboom. As far as we could tell, they inadvertently skipped over his name and read Alexander Wells’s name twice.
So that’s Bemboom: He’s here, but they might have forgotten to announce him even as he trotted down the orange carpet, or if they didn’t forget him then we didn’t notice his name even though we were listening for him. Sorry, Anthony. I hope you enjoy your Orioles tenure for however long it lasts.
Still to come: Chris Owings, Spenser Watkins