Tyler Flowers has exceeded expectations in his return home. And he hopes the Braves reward him with a contract extension.
Flowers, a Roswell native, has filled what once appeared to be a huge void at catcher. In his second season with the Braves, he’s put together the best statistical season of his career.
Flowers is hitting a career-best .293, well above his collective .241 average since 2009. After a 1-for-4 game Friday, he’s hitting .288 over his past 18 games, including an 11-game hitting streak as a starter.
“You know, it’s definitely one of the most fun seasons I’ve had,” Flowers said. “Just the mix of working with young guys, working with some veteran guys, decent job defensively, success here and there offensively; that always makes it a little more fun to show up to work and compete. You feel like you can compete with whoever’s out there that day. That’s made it a lot of fun. The coaches, the environment that we’ve created, the direction we’re heading keeps you excited.”
That direction is exciting enough that Flowers hopes he’s part of it. The Braves have a $4 million 2018 club option on Flowers, which is almost assured to be picked up, but he wants to stay for the long haul.
“Hopefully that’s something on their mind,” Flowers said of extension talks. “Everybody wants to play forever. They want to play at home and play for their favorite team when they were a kid. Hopefully that’s the case for me.”
The organization has a number of catcher prospects in the pipeline, but they appear nowhere near to becoming major league contributors. For a team that plans to contend sooner rather than later, Flowers, while 31 years old, makes sense to keep around.
Combined with Kurt Suzuki, the Braves have one of baseball’s better catching duos. Braves manager Brian Snitker is thankful for the pair, but not because of their offensive production.
“We’ve gotten really good production out of both of them,” he said. “And it’s great, too, having two guys who are so invested in the pitching. That’s kind of their big thing that’s at the forefront of both of those guys, our pitchers, getting them through games. And I think you could ask both of them, the hitting thing is just kind of a plus.
“Obviously they’re both very competitive guys who want to do good, but I think how they’re invested in our pitching has really helped. When you have two guys who are sharing that job and care for each other, they’re friends. They’re each other’s biggest fan, and that leads to nothing but a really positive situation for us.
Flowers takes great pride in his pitch framing. He’s getting a called strike on 8.5 percent of pitches outside the zone, by far the best in baseball, according to MLB StatCast. The next highest percentage is 7.0, and no qualifying catcher has recorded better than a 7.78 mark over the past two seasons.
He’s been impressed with rookie pitchers Sean Newcomb, Lucas Sims and Max Fried. Flowers sees confidence in each of them and believes all will have long careers in the majors.
“He does a great job back there,” Newcomb said of his catcher. “Statistically, he’s the best in the game. Dealing fastballs in the corner, curveballs, whatever it is. He gives you a lot of confidence knowing that he’s going to do his best to make it look good.”
As for Flowers personally, despite the statistical success, he’s not sure if it’s been his best season.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s not over yet. We’ll see.”
But what Flowers does know is that he loves playing for his hometown team and seeing his children grow up in the same place he grew up.
“It’s home,” he said. “So it’s always nice to be at home, your own bed. The kids don’t have to pack up and move everything. School, friends, all that.”
As one of the bright spots of an otherwise mediocre season, Flowers hopes he’s making his case to see the Braves’ better days.
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