Flowers’ 2018 option picked up by Braves; catching tandem returns intact

12:34 p.m Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 Atlanta Braves
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II
Tyler Flowers  hits a two-run homer Monday against the Mets at New York.

Tyler Flowers will be back with the Braves in 2018 after the team picked up the $4 million option on the veteran catcher’s contract Monday, a move that was long expected as the Roswell native produced career-best statistics in his second season with the Braves.

It means the Braves keep intact what’s proven to be one of baseball’s most-potent catching tandems in Flowers and former All-Star Kurt Suzuki, who at age 33 hit a career-high 19 home runs in 81 games. Suzuki signed a one-year, $3.5 million extension Sept. 23.

The Braves also announced Flowers had arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist Oct. 9, a debridement procedure. He’s expected to be fully recovered before the start of spring training in February.

Flowers, 31, set career highs in batting average (.281), on-base percentage (.378), slugging percentage (.445) and OPS (.823) in 99 games, and his second-best totals in homers (12), RBIs (49) and plate appearances (370).

As a unit, Braves catchers ranked third in batting average (.283), second in on-base percentage (.364), slugging percentage (.487) and OPS (.850), fourth in RBIs (98) and tied for third in homers (30). 

Flowers and Suzuki had a combined 31 home runs, but one  by Flowers came while pinch-hitting.

“Our tandem has really, really worked,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s kind of been a perfect storm for both of them. ... Handling the staff, that’s the biggest they do, is how they invested in these young pitchers, and their catching ability, how they framed strikes.”

Flowers ranked second among qualifying major league catchers in on-base percentage, third in batting average and fifth in OPS. Even more importantly for the Braves and their young pitchers, Flowers ranks first among among all catchers in the increasingly valued skill of framing pitches -- i.e., getting strike calls on pitches outside the strike zone -- and has drawn praise for his improved game-calling and guidance of a pitching staff with an ever-increasing number of rookies including some of the team’s top prospects.

“It’s a big deal,” Snitker said of framing pitches. “I mean, he’s really good. I was talking to (Marlins catcher) A.J. Ellis, he calls (Flowers) the magician. Just because he can get strikes. He’s really good at it.”

A graduate of Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Flowers was selected by the Braves in the 33rd round of the 2005 draft out of Chipola College. He came up through the Braves system but was traded to the White Sox in December 2008 as part of a four-player/prospect package that brought pitchers Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan to the Braves.

In December 2015, the Braves signed Flowers to a two-year, $5.3 million contract that included additional incentives plus a third-year option with a $300,000 buyout. He had a $3 million base salary in 2017.

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