Opening up the mailbag, I find the following question in regards to Texas Rangers rookie catcher Robinson Chirinos:
"How did Robinson Chirinos get overlooked by scouts for so long? I see a guy with a terrific arm and good power but he's already 30." ---Steve C., Oklahoma City
Good question! This one came in about a week ago, a few hours after this article by Justin Perline was posted at Beyond the Boxscore. Steve C. didn't answer a follow-up email from me but I assume that Perline's article may have given him the idea to ask.
As Justin notes, Chirinos is playing well defensively: he's thrown out 43% of runners while making just two errors and giving up five passed balls in 69 games. He's got 1.77 pop times to second base and his ability to shut down the running game without making many mistakes is a great asset despite non-elite performance in other aspects of catching such as pitch-framing.
As Steve notes, Chirinos has some power as well, hitting 11 homers this year and 12 in his entire big league career (he had cups of coffee in '11 and '13). Overall he has a .229/.274/.394 line with 12 homers, 16 walks, and 74 strikeouts in 344 plate appearances.
Scouts have known about Chirinos' throwing arm for years but he didn't start off as a catcher: he began his career as an infielder in the Cubs system, signed in 2000 out of Venezuela. He was very good at second base and had the arm for shortstop, but not the range. His bat stagnated and the Cubs moved him behind the plate in 2008 to enhance his versatility. A full-time catcher beginning in '09, he began to hit better, too, batting .294/.396/.519 between High-A and Double-A in '09 and .326/.416/.583 between Double-A and Triple-A in '10.
He was traded to the Rays as part of the Matt Garza deal but missed all of the 2012 season after a severe concussion in spring training. He was then swapped to the Rangers last spring and didn't have a particularly good year in Triple-A, possibly still feeling the concussion rust, but he took hold of a job this year and has held it with a .237/.276/.427 line and the aforementioned defensive performance. Chirinos had a better BB/K/PA ratio in the minors than in the majors and I suspect he might be able to get some of that back with more time in the box, although offense will never be his best asset.
Anyway, to answer Steve's question, Chirinos wasn't really overlooked as a prospect; scouts knew about him, but his journey was slow because he was a originally an infielder, because he didn't start hitting well until he was 25, and because of the concussion. Going forward, he'll need to improve his on-base abilities to hold a regular job long-term, but his defense will keep him employed at least as a reserve.