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Nats Catcher Depth Chart; whole system

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Gomes looks like the 2019 starter... Photo via nytimes.com

Gomes looks like the 2019 starter… Photo via nytimes.com

I’m not sure why i got on this mental tangent, but here goes.

When was the last time the Nats developed a quality starting catcher from cradle to grave (so to speak) from our system?   Here’s a quick glance at the Nats leading catchers by  games played since they arrived in Washington:

  • 2017-2018: Matt Wieters  free agent acquisition
  • 2014-2016: Wilson Ramos: trade acquisition for Matt Capps while still a minor leaguer
  • 2013: Kurt Suzuki: trade acquisition from Oakland
  • 2012: Jesus Flores: rule-5 draftee
  • 2011: Ramos
  • 2010: Ivan Rodriguez : Free agent acquisition
  • 2009: Josh Bard: free agent acquistion
  • 2008: Flores
  • 2005-2007: Brian Schneider: drafted by Montreal Expos 5th round 1995

The answer is Schneider.  Not since Brian Schnieder has this franchise started a home-grown catcher.  Thats more than a decade of drafting and player development.

(No, I don’t count either Flores or Ramos by the way.  Flores as a rule-5 draftee was developed by the Mets, and Ramos spent 6 years in Minnesota’s farm system before we got him).

Sprinkled into the above include backups that we’ve definitely developed in house, guys like Spencer Kieboom and Pedro Severino and Sandy Leon and Jhonatan Solano … but none of these guys were really starters for any period of time, and none were impactful enough to not force the team to go back into the FA market again and again.

This trend continues for 2019, with the team buying not one but TWO catchers this off-season: Yan Gomes via trade and then the return of Suzuki via FA.

So I thought it’d be interesting to look at what depth we have now under Gomes/Suzuki, project where last year’s frequent MLB contributors like Kieboom will end up in 2019, and see what the pipeline looks like.


 

Nats Full-system Catcher Depth Chart:

  • MLB: Gomes/Suzuki

They’re on record (per the reports we’re reading from bored beat writers) as both being “ok” with the planned split in playing time.  They’ll also get PH opportunities, which makes sense as long as its a low-risk situation (this also implies we’d need to have a designated emergency 3rd catcher: Matt Adams anyone?)


  • AAA: SKieboom, Severino, Raudy Read.

So, both Kieboom and Read have 2019 options, while Severino does not.  Severino’s defense speaks for itself, but unfortunately so does his offense; his career OPS+ in four part-time MLB seasons and nearly 300 plate appearances is just 48.    I think the team keeps him around til the end of Spring Training to cover for injury, then DFAs him and tries to sneak him through to AAA.  If that happens, I think Read gets pushed back to AA.  Or maybe not; maybe they just cut ties with him completely.   I think we know what we have with Kieboom too.  Read is the interesting one; his PED suspension cost him both development time and good will within the org; will he start over Kieboom and continue to develop at AAA?  He hit decently enough at AA last year (.286) so I think he’s ready for the AAA challenge.  He remains generally the highest ranking Catcher prospect in the system … but may not be the first line of defense called up to cover for injury right now.

  • Next guy promoted: probably Kieboom, then Read.
  • Most likely to succeed at MLB level: Read.  I think we’ve seen what we will see out of Kieboom.
  • Most likely to get cut first: Severino for options purposes in April.

 

  • AA: Taylor Gushue, Tres Barrera, Matt Reistetter

Ironically these first two are also the two NRI catchers invited to 2019 spring training.  They’re not there to make the team; they’re there to catch the gazillion arms who need to throw.  Gushue struggled at the plate in 2018 in AA (.212) but by all accounts is a pitcher favorite to call games (sounds a lot like Severino).  Meanwhile Barrera hit decently splitting time in High-A in 2018.  I can see an even split between these two in Harrisburg in 2019.  Meanwhile the system still has the NDFA Reistetter hanging around; in his 6 year minor league career he’s got appearances at literally every domestic team.  He likely gets assigned to the Harrisburg roster but hangs out in XST waiting to cover for injury.

  • Next guy promoted: Barrera
  • Most likely to succeed at MLB level: Barrera
  • Most likely to get cut first: Reistetter

 

  • High-A: Jakson Reetz , Alex Dunlap, Alejandro Flores,

Reetz is nearly in “draft bust” territory, basically hanging around thanks to his being a 3rd rounder in 2014.  He’s now got 4 full minor league seasons under his belt and seems to be getting pushed northwards in the system less based on production and more based on his signing bonus.  At some point, the team may have to cut bait.  I see him serving primarily as a backup.  Meanwhile, Dunlap (a 29th rounder in 2017) hung around XST for a bit, then out-played Flores in Hagerstown and basically became the starting catcher.   I put both Dunlap and Flores here though b/c of who’s targeted for Low-A.  There’s still somewhat of a gap here in the system, but we could see some fast-movers pushing into Potomac this year.

  • Next guy promoted: Dunlap
  • Most likely to succeed at MLB level: none here really projecting to MLB at this point.
  • Most likely to get cut first: Reetz

 

  • Low-A: Israel PinedaNic Perkins

Perkins was a 28th rounder in 2017, was the main catcher in Short-A in 2018 and could make sense to slide right to Low-A, but he’ll play second fiddle to Pineda, who has burst onto the scene, does not turn 19 until April and now looks like our best chance to develop a starting catcher since Schneider.  Of course … it is folley to project an 18 yr old’s future success.  But, like Yasiel Antuna and Luis Garcia before him, the Nats should have no qualms of promoting a successful teenager right to low-A.  So Look for Perkins to back up Pineda in Hagerstown to open the season.

  • Next guy promoted: Perkins
  • Most likely to succeed at MLB level: Pineda
  • Most likely to get cut first: none in the short term

 

  • Short-A: Tyler CropleyWilmer PerezAdalberto Carrillo, 2019 draftee(s)

Perez was an J2 IFA signing in 2016 who hit well in the DSL in 2017 and adequately in the GCL in 2018 and makes sense to be the starter in Short-A in 2019.   Carrillo was a late-round 2017 draftee who is hanging around.   Cropley was our 2018 8th round pick, a senior low money sign who was one of just two 2018 drafted catchers, and may have to really impress to stick around give the small amount of investment the team has in him.  All three appeared briefly in Auburn last year and seem to make sense to return this year.

  • Next guy promoted: Perez
  • Most likely to succeed at MLB level: none projecting to MLB from here at this time.
  • Most likely to get cut first: Cropley

 

  • GCL: Onyx VegaAnthony Peroni, Geraldi Diaz, 2019 draftee(s)

Both Vega (a 2018 draftee) and Peroni (2017 draftee) were subs in GCL last year behind the likes of (primarily) Perez, and both seem like they should return to GCL.  Peroni only hit .177 and is entering his 3rd pro year so he likely seems like he’ll be released upon the 2019 drafting of more catcher talent, or upon the potential promotion from the DSL catcher candidates like Geraldi Diaz (a 2017 IFA signee who might be ready to come state-side).

  • Next guy promoted: Vega
  • Most likely to succeed at MLB level: none projecting to MLB from here at this time.
  • Most likely to get cut first: Peroni

 

So that’s our Catcher depth.  Did I miss anyone?

11 Responses to 'Nats Catcher Depth Chart; whole system'

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  1. Great stuff, Todd. This is a terrific read.
    For us minor league seamheads, Pineda’s the one to watch.

    Mark L

    18 Feb 19 at 5:39 pm

  2. “…like Yasiel Antuna and Luis Garcia before him, the Nats should have no qualms of promoting a successful teenager right to low-A…”

    How quickly they forget Juan Soto! :)

    Seriously, though, the Nats have signed an amazing number of blue chip IFA teenagers of late, which has “saved” their minor league system to an extent. As a catcher, Pineda will take a bit longer to develop than the others, but they seemed to have set up their current MLB catching situation with the idea that he’ll be ready about the time they not only will need to look for a new starter, but so he’ll be a potential low cost replacement just as Soto and Robles are hitting their arbitration years.

    I’m not a big believer in Read. He’s going to have to really produce this season to have a shot at being the starter. I agree that Severino is likely gone since he is not only useless at the plate, but blocking the younger guys from moving up.

    Karl Kolchak

    18 Feb 19 at 10:36 pm

  3. Yes, undoubtedly an excellent article for all enthusiasts of MiLB, and who follow the Nats prospects all throughout the system.

    It is without question that drafting/signing young catching prospects and developing them has not been a forte of this franchise. But given the state of catching in the Major Leagues, are we really that off from what is the norm for a franchise?

    If we go back over the years, since I began to follow the Expos and now the Nats, these were the main catchers/prospects that I can recall:

    Mid-70’s, early 80’s – Gary Carter, Barry Foote
    Both came in together around ‘75, and initially Foote was considered such a good prospect, that hecpushed Carter to LF. The rest is history.

    Mid-late 80’s to early 90’s – Mike Fitzgerald
    Solid catcher, but much-maligned by fans as he was part of the return for Carter. Don’t recall any big prospect pushing Fitzgerald.

    Mid-late 90’s – Darrin Fletcher, Chris Widger
    Acquired from the Phillies in ‘91, he was a solid to above average catcher who was the starter for the best team of the 90’s, the 1994 Montreal Expos. Yet again, no one in the pipeline to push him. Later in the decade, the Expos traded for Widger who was above adequate, with some power.

    End of 90’s to the End of the Montreal Era in 2004 – Michael Barrett, Brian Scneider
    The Expos converted Michael Barrett, drafted as a SS into catcher. He made it to Montreal and was fairly adequate/solid, but Brian Schneider who was not a major prospect showed more promise, leading to Barrett being traded to the Cubs. Schneider clearly developed into a very solid catcher over the years and into the Nationals Era.

    Mid-late 2000’s thru early 2010’s – Brian Schneider, Jesús FloresWilson Ramos
    Schneider was a mainstay for those initial Nat teams as we all know, Jesús Flores (a Ruke V from the Nets Farm) fizzled due to injuries and Ramos was not developed by us, but was an above average catcher.

    The rest I defer to the outstanding article.

    My point:
    Drafting/Signing/Developing catchers that reach the Majors and are successful is a very difficult and rare phenomenon. Are we average or below average as an organization in that regards… well it remains to be analyzed. In my 45 years as an avid fan of the franchise the record for development is basically limited to Gary Carter, Michael Barrett and Brian Schneider. 20 to 30 years ago, I would have advised… come to PR and sign/draft the next catcher phenom. Not anymore.

    As many here are (including Rizzo), let’s cross our fingers with Pineda.

    Go Nats

    LH

    19 Feb 19 at 2:12 am

  4. LH: yes a fair point, that there’s a dearth of quality backstops everywhere, not just here. Anyone who plays fantasy baseball knows this: there’s literally not enough quality catchers to go around in even a 10 team league from an offense perspective. If you don’t get one of the top 3-4 guys, you’re almost better off getting someone off the waiver wire. Now, fantasy completely discounts defensive value … but its telling that in the modern age just a handful of guys project to produce at a MLB average in 2019.

    Its one reason that i’m actually amazed at how cheaply this team was able to solve its catcher issue this off-season. They traded actually very little to get Yan Gomes (Jefry Rodriguez, Daniel Johnson, PTBNL that turns into Andruw Monasterio), and they signed Suzuki for peanuts (2yrs $10M). Meanwhile, Philly traded its top prospect (Sixto Sanchez), another top 10 prospect (Will Stewart), a third lower-level guy and IFA money to acquire Realmuto for just two years of control. That’d be like Washington trading Kieboom, Rainey, a lower level guy like Austin Adams plus bonus money. Would you have ever made that trade? not for just 2 years of arbitration escalating salary.

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 19 at 8:30 am

  5. Well, the Nats did draft a catcher 1/1 overall in 2010. I wonder whatever happened to that kid . . . Anyone heard anything about him lately? (Good grief, please make it all end!)

    Yes, the Nats’ inability to develop catching has hung them out to dry multiple times over the last decade, leading to having to keep making deal after deal. (At least they got Everyday Felipe along with Sheriff Lobo.) As noted, they’re far from the only team who has suffered the same fate.

    I agree wholeheartedly that the low-cost deals they made for Gomes and Suzuki look great compared to the Realmuto price and to how much Grandal and Ramos wanted. So they seem set for now, and Spencer Kieboom is a pretty decent spare at AAA. I agree with Karl in questioning Read’s viability, though (he wasn’t good in ’18 after the PED suspension), and Severino will be gone by the end of the spring one way or the other, unless he clears waivers.

    Reetz is a bust, although considering the perpetual catching problem, he was probably worth the gamble (and I hate drafting HS players). Pineda is the only guy on the horizon who offers much hope.

    KW

    19 Feb 19 at 1:06 pm

  6. You know what else the Nats can’t seem to get right? Closers. I happened to peruse (again, to use a fantasy site) Closer rankings for 2019 and 2 of the top 5 are Nats that we traded away to acquire OTHER closers.

    Off topic, but mlbpipeeline just released their top 30 for the Nats: https://www.mlb.com/news/nationals-2019-top-30-prospects-list/c-304136246
    Interesting rankings compared to other lists:
    – Higher on Pineda than anyone else (slightly)
    – only shop really to rank De La Rosa
    – higher on Jose Sanchez
    – really dinged Romero
    – Ranks Rainey … which i guess he’s still a prospect. Also ranks McGowin 30th; is he really a prospect? I get that he’s rookie eligible and thus eligible … but is a 4-A starter really a prospect? He is ranked 30th so maybe that’s the answer. I wonder who #31 is.
    – really dinged Raudy Read (also consistent with our conversations here)

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 19 at 1:43 pm

  7. Machado to the Padres. I like it, for them and baseball. Hopefully Harper heads to CWS!

    Wally

    19 Feb 19 at 3:28 pm

  8. I keep reminding people that Bryce got married in SD . . . There’s no way Kayla wants to be in Philly. That’s all I’m sayin’.

    KW

    19 Feb 19 at 3:46 pm

  9. Still can’t believe that a team that makes somewhere in the range of $450M/year (Chicago Cubs) isn’t in the mix. Still can’t believe that the New York Yankees (who make north of $600M a year) are going to go into 2019 starting a sub-replacement guy in LF instead of buying Harper and making a run at their eternal rivals Boston in the division. Still can’t believe that the Dodgers traded away so much payroll so they could choose A.J. Pollack instead of Harper, the closest thing to his home town.

    I just don’t see San Diego committing to two $30M/year AAV contracts; its bad enough they have Machado and Hosmer.

    Todd Boss

    19 Feb 19 at 3:58 pm

  10. Beyond all of this, which is all true, baseball—the entire sport, not just MLB—desperately NEEDS Bryce on a high-profile team. It’s just too dumb to know it. That’s yet another reason to hate the thought of him going to Philly—it’s bad for the game itself.

    KW

    19 Feb 19 at 6:05 pm

  11. I go the other way: Machado on SDP gives me a reason to catch a few games that I didn’t have before. Harper would have made them exciting, even.

    I think Machado made a great move. Huge money, low pressure and expectations the outset, and a good farm system to feed players. And a fantastic lifestyle. If it wasn’t in California, it would be a total home run. :-)

    But Philly is a high profile team. I dislike them the most, personally, and would rather re-sign Harper then see him there, but I still think they are good, and high profile. It’s just … they’re the ones who threw the batteries at players, right? If you can get reasonably similar money, i’d Go ABP (Anywhere But Philly). But if it was an extra year at $30m? I don’t think you can say no.

    But it would be good for baseball to see Harper go somewhere out of the spotlight and raise their image. CWS is perfect.

    But I think it’s Philly, tbh.

    Wally

    19 Feb 19 at 7:02 pm

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