The Washington Nationals have two new catchers this season, and Yan Gomes is one-half of this year’s dynamic duo behind the plate.
Gomes is replacing Matt Wieters, who, in his two years with the Nationals, slashed .230/.303/.335 in 199 games.
Last season, Gomes was named to the American League all-star team after experiencing a mini-revival with his bat. He slashed .266/.313/.449 which is good for a 101 wRC+.
Gomes was one of the best defensive catchers in the MLB last season and ranked as a well above average pitch framer.
Also, Gomes has experience catching the Cleveland Indians rotation, including the likes of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and Mike Clevinger. Going from that trio to Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin will make for one smooth transition.
The Nationals invested heavily in their pitching this season, signing Corbin and Anibal Sanchez, along with numerous relief pitchers. One way to make the team’s pitchers better is to improve the quality of the person catching them.
While Gomes is merely an average hitter by position player standards, the Nationals made a contingency plan by also signing Kurt Suzuki.
The downside of starting Suzuki is his catching skills as he was the fourth worst pitch framer in baseball last season, according to StatCorner’s catcher report.
However, where Suzuki earns his keep is inside of the batter’s box, not behind it. Suzuki had the 5th best wRC+ last season among catchers with at least 350 plate appearances.
Gomes and Suzuki will likely split time and, barring injury; no one will consistently dominate the playing time. However, given that Suzuki is 35 years old, one can assume Gomes will lead the two in games started by the end of the regular season.
Gomes is already off to a hot start this spring. In 27 plate appearances, Gomes has an OPS of 1.390. If he can do 60% of that number in the regular season, the Nats will be in a great position to score boatloads of runs this season.
With Suzuki on the team, it will help ease the pressure on Gomes to produce offensively. If he focuses on what he does well behind the plate and can be an average hitter, he will put the Nationals in a position to succeed.