In an interview with MLB Network Radio host Grant Paulsen in which the catching depth in the Washington Nationals' system was discussed in February of 2011, a year before the Nats' traded the top backstop prospect in their system (Derek Norris) in the deal with the Oakland A's that landed Gio Gonzalez, Nationals' Director of Player Development, Doug Harris, told the host that one name that hadn't been mentioned on a list of backstops in the organization that included Wilson Ramos, Jesus Flores, Pudge Rodriguez Jhonatan Solano and Norris at the time, was Sandy Leon's. The then-21-year-old Maracaibo, Venezuela-born catcher had just finished up a 2010 season at Class-A Hagerstown in which he'd put up a .249/.345/.335 line with 10 doubles, six triples and two home runs in 98 games and 385 plate appearance, with a .975 fld% and a 51% CS percentage on the season. "[Leon is] a little bit of an under-the-radar catcher," Mr. Harris, "... a switch-hitting catcher that will likely play in Potomac this year that is a tremendous defender, game caller, switch bat, and you know he's going to sneak his way into that group."
In 109 games and 416 PA's at Class-A Potomac in 2011, Leon had a .251/.312/.362 line with 21 doubles and six home runs at the plate and a .987 fld% and 53% CS behind it. In August '11, Leon was recognized by Baseball America as the Best Defensive Catcher in High-A ball. The now 23-year-old backstop started the 2012 season at Double-A Harrisburg where he had a .319/.356/.457 line with 10 doubles and a home run in 27 games and 102 plate appearances, a .991 fld% and a 41% CS% before he was called up to join the Nationals in Cincinnati over the weekend to take over as the backup catcher for the Nats when Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee in Saturday night's game.
Davey Johnson is throwing Leon right into the fire, pencilling the sixth-year-pro into the starting lineup for tonight's game. Barring any weather issues, Leon will make his MLB debut catching Ross Detwiler tonight at 7:05 pm EDT. Here's tonight's lineup (via WTOP's Craig Heist):
• Fangraphs.com's Marc Hulet wrote a quick article about Leon this afternoon for some pregame reading. LINK.
• Some more injury notes via Twitter after the jump in case you're not following the local beat writers or not on the Twitter...
• Michael Morse:
Michael Morse said he gets to dry swing a bat tomorrow (meaning not hit but swing) and he's hopeful for June 8 return (DH vs BOS). #nats— Amanda Comak (@acomak) May 14, 2012
• Brad Lidge:
Brad Lidge threw off flat ground today for the first time since surgery. Aiming for second or third week of June.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) May 14, 2012
• Mark DeRosa:
Mark DeRosa (oblique) could come off the DL around a week after he's eligible, Davey said. #Nats— Dan Kolko (@DanKolko) May 14, 2012
• Chien-Ming Wang:
• In case you missed it this afternoon on the MLB Network, which aired the game, Chien-Ming Wang started for the Triple-A Chiefs this afternoon against the Rochester Red Wings, going 8.0 innings over which he allowed 11 hits, 4 runs, all earned, and a walk while inducing 14 ground ball outs and throwing 84 pitches total, 61 for strikes.
• Jayson Werth:
Davey said the surgeon at the Mayo Clinic told Jayson Werth that by having surgery right away he probably shaved 3 weeks off his recovery.— Amanda Comak (@acomak) May 14, 2012