Our Washington Nationals player grades for 2016 continue today as we look at the backup catcher
When you talk about Washington Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton, he isn’t a player who is going to wow people with his offensive game. However, Lobaton has been valuable to the Washington Nationals starting rotation for his defense. Plus, he has good pitch framing behind the plate.
This past season, Lobaton had a slash line of .232/.319/.374 with three home runs and 20 RBI’s in 39 games. With Wilson Ramos staying healthy for the majority of the season, it would make sense that Lobaton have many at-bats. During the first two months of the season, Lobaton had a sub .200 batting average, had one extra-base hit, and three RBI’s. (.154 in April and .190 in May).
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Lobaton’s first home run of the season didn’t occur until June 26 against the Brewers, but it was a timely. In that game against Milwaukee, Lobaton’s solo home run in the top of the seventh inning helped the Washington Nationals snap their seven game losing streak.
One month later, the 31-year-old catcher went on the disabled list because of left shoulder tendinitis. He did not play in another game until August 25 against the Orioles, As the season wound down, Lobaton also battled ankle injuries. But, he did have eight hits in 20 at-bats in September.
Once Ramos went out of the lineup due to a torn ACL, it was up to Lobaton and Pedro Severino to fill in at catcher. In Game 2 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Lobaton hit a clutch three-run home run against Rich Hill in the bottom of the fourth inning. It put the Nats ahead 3-2 in a game that they eventually won.
On defense, Lobaton threw out 28% of the runners trying to steal on him, which is up by 2% from a season ago (according to Baseball Reference). As far as defensive runs saved go, that number went up from -3 in 2015 to 1 run this past season (Fangraphs).
Going into this offseason, Lobaton has one more year left on his contract before becoming a free agent. If the Washington Nationals do decide to stick with Pedro Severino behind the plate, Lobaton would be a valuable veteran backup because the pitchers are comfortable throwing to him, especially Gio Gonzalez.
While Lobaton doesn’t shine offensively, his batting average went up from 2015 (.199 in 44 games). Plus, he was able to get the timely home run in the NLDS when the Nats were struggling to hit against Hill.