For the last half-decade or so, the Braves have been quite fond of relying on multiple backstops. Doing so has largely led to them avoiding needing a third catcher for a while, except when a series of unfortunate events all struck in 2021. But, for the past two years, that role has been Chadwick Tromp’s, and it has resulted in only a brief visit from the Trompical Storm in each season.
The Braves claimed Tromp off waivers from the Giants all the way back in September 2021. Since then, he’s bounced around a bit — he’s been designated for assignment once, played in the World Baseball Classic for Team Netherlands, had a couple of stints in Atlanta, had a couple of stints on the Injured List... you get the idea.
What were the expectations?
As the organizational third catcher, the hope is generally that Tromp is never needed, but can fill in okay if he ever is. With an 82 career wRC+ in the bigs, and tiny-sample average-ish defensive metrics, Tromp suits that role pretty well.
Basically, the expectation was that Tromp would hang around at Gwinnett and be able to fill in enough in case of catcher injury that the non-injured catcher could get a breather every now and then... and that’s exactly what Tromp did in 2023.
Tromp was an early cut in Spring Training, as the Braves showed little interest in carrying three catchers on the major league roster. It didn’t take long for him to be pressed into service, though — Travis d’Arnaud hit the seven-day Concussion Injured List on April 9, and up came Tromp. He then served as the understudy to Sean Murphy, appearing in six games over three weeks before being sent back down to Gwinnett.
On June 17, Sean Murphy felt some hamstring tightness, so the Braves recalled Tromp to serve as an emergency catching option the next day. Tromp then hung around on the roster for 12 days without getting into a game, and was optioned back down. Amusingly, he was optioned down so the Braves could re-add Charlie Culberson to the active roster; Culberson was designated for assignment to make room for Tromp on the active roster in June. That was it for his landfall in Atlanta, though, as he spent the rest of the year in Gwinnett.
In those six games where he filled in early in the year, Tromp managed 16 PAs, where he had a single, a double, and seven strikeouts. He managed to accrue a blocking run above average per Statcast in that tiny sample, but a -27 wRC+ is hard to overcome, so he posted -0.2 fWAR, plunging his career fWAR back into negative territory.
What went right?
Tromp was in the organization for a purpose, and when he was needed, he answered the call. He even got to hang around with the boys in June as a third catcher, even though his services weren’t required. He had one game with positive WPA on the year (though it was the game that unfortunate Marlins comeback in the ninth), and his biggest play of the year was a leadoff double against Tylor Megill with a 2-0 deficit to the Mets in the sixth... but even though that hit started a rally that saw the Braves take the lead in the inning, the Braves lost that game too.
If you’re looking for tiny-sample positives, Tromp had a high average exit velocity and great fly ball rate... in his nine non-strikeout plate appearances.
What went wrong?
Tromp probably wishes he had something better than a -27 wRC+ to show for his 2023 season. He also had a fairly anemic line at Triple-A (82 wRC+), which is a bummer for him insofar as he was hoping to eventually catch on as a major league backup somewhere. In his 16 PAs, his plate discipline numbers were all screwed up — he had a high z-whiff but also a high o-swing but also a high o-contact, which is a pretty brutal combination. The Braves love high z-whiff and Tromp tried his hardest to swing out of his shoes and pull something in the air most of the time, but you can’t run a high o-swing and o-contact when you do that and end up with a good line.
He had a tough game in his 2023 debut, a win over the Royals: a flyout and then three straight strikeouts, with the latter two coming in big spots. His last big league PA of 2023 was actually his most costly, WPA-wise, of the season — he struck out in a tie game after a leadoff double in the fifth, and ended up getting pinch-hit for by Murphy three innings later.
Tromp ended up getting non-tendered at the deadline, along with six others, as the Braves trimmed their 40-man roster substantially. But, just four days later, he re-joined the organization on a minor league deal.
He’ll probably serve the same replacement level, organizational third catcher role again in 2024, which is kind of a bummer because it means the less we see of him, the better things are for the Braves... and “Chadwick Tromp” is a fun set of syllables to say.