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Braves season in review: Pierzynski surprises in 2015; who's up in 2016?

Taking a look back and forward on the catcher position in Atlanta.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Braves came into 2015 with the idea of Christian Bethancourt becoming the everyday starter. It ended up being 38-year-old A.J. Pierzynski who made a majority of the starts while putting together one of the best seasons of his 18-year career.

2015 recap

Pierzynski probably deserved more publicity on a national level. The Braves fell off just before the All-Star Game, but AJP kept on hitting to the tune of .300/.339/.430. It was one of the better seasons of his entire career. And while managing AJP in the clubhouse can be a challenge, I was told by someone close to the team that Nick Markakis and Jonny Gomes kept him in check. He meshed well with the young guys, too.

For as good as Pierzysnki was, Bethancourt was equally frustrating. He hit .200/.225/.290 in 160 plate appearances. He routinely would have catchable balls get past him behind the plate. You can't showcase that big arm behind the plate if you can't catch the damn ball.

Bethancourt did hit better in Triple-A following a demotion, but time is starting to run out on him being anything more than a long-term backup. That would be pretty disappointing considering the hype around him as he made his way through the farm system.

2016 preview

It would seem probable that Pierzynski will be back next season in some shape or form. I'm not sure how much gas he has left in the tank, but he would prove valuable even if just a backup.

Bethancourt is under control for the foreseeable future and could be a trade candidate. The Braves could also opt to head into 2016 the way they did 2015, hoping that the Pierzysnki-Bethancourt duo will be enough.

Matt Wieters is the biggest name on the free agent market as far as catchers go. Wieters has never lived up to the hype he garnered as a prospect, and he had Tommy John Surgery in June 2014. He'd fit right in.

All jokes aside, Wieters will be linked to the Braves due to his southeastern ties: he's from South Carolina, played at Georgia Tech and has a house just outside of Atlanta. A Scott Boras client, Wieters won't be cheap despite a bad 2015 and recent injuries. Some very valid concerns about Wieters are presented here (and in the comments).

If he and Boras are looking for a Brian McCann deal – 5 years, $85 million – you can forget it. But if he's looking for a 3-4 year deal around $12M annually, John Coppolella will take a look. A one-year deal to rebuild some value would also be intriguing.

Other free agent possibilities: Chris Ianetta, Alex Avila. Neither would be full-time options, though they could blend well with AJP or Bethancourt.

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