In addition to recommending that the Washington Nationals bring Ian Desmond back to play center field in the nation’s capital (so Trea Turner can play short, with shortstop Danny Espinosa getting traded or in a utility role in that scenario), and suggesting that the Nationals consider re-signing Mark Melancon after acquiring the soon-to-be free agent closer at this past August’s non-waiver deadline, veteran Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote on Tuesday that the Nats should anoint 23-year-old backstop Pedro Severino the No. 1 catcher in D.C.
“Tell 23-year-old Pedro Severino, who looked polished behind the plate and brought energy everywhere in September and October, that he is your starting catcher,” Boz wrote, “Period.”
Wilson Ramos, who underwent surgery to repair the “anterior cruciate ligament, along with repairs to the medial meniscus and lateral meniscus” after injuring his right knee for the second time in his career late this season, is destined for the American League, Boswell wrote, “ after rehab (by mid-2017).” Ramos too acknowledged that might be the case, that his future may be in the AL.
Is Severino ready?
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked about Severino, who signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, when Ramos went down with the knee injury and the Nationals turned to the rookie backstop in Game 1 of the NLDS, with ace Max Scherzer on the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“His defensive skills are evident,” Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies.
“He blocks pitches great, he handles balls, he’s a framer, he can throw you out as a base stealer and his swing is pretty efficient, but you’re asking a lot of a young kid to go up and play — with a handful of big league games — to go up against some of the best left-handed pitching that he’s probably ever seen in his life.”
Against Clayton Kershaw, the Game 1 starter for the Dodgers, Severino went 1 for 3 with a double and a run scored.
“He did a great job. He did a great job calling pitches. He hit a couple balls extremely hard,” Dusty Baker told reporters after the Nationals’ 4-3 loss in Severino’s postseason debut.
“You know, Seve was Seve. He has good life. You know that he's exuberant. You know that he wants to win.”
His double off Kershaw was Severino’s only hit in 10 plate appearances in the Division Series.
In 82 games and 317 PAs at Triple-A Syracuse this season, he put up a .271/.316/.337 line with 13 doubles and two home runs.
Over 16 games and 34 PAs in the majors, he had a .321/.441/.607 line, two doubles and two homers.
In six seasons total in the Nationals’ system, Severino put up a combined .243/.294/.338 line.
He received a ringing endorsement from Scherzer before the series opener, with the veteran right-hander explaining that normally “... having a rookie catcher behind the plate, you’d probably have [cause] for concern of not being in sync with him.”
But with Severino, Scherzer said, “Severino is completely different.”
“He’s way more mature and understands the game way further than any rookie catcher I’ve ever been around. He gets it.”
Baker talked about the work Severino did this season to prepare for the situation he ended up in late in the Nationals’ run to the NL East title and NLDS loss.
“Rick Schu has worked on some things and then Bobby Henley takes him out every other day,” Baker said. “[He] works on his throwing, works on his blocking and stuff when he wasn’t playing, so it doesn’t appear to be too foreign to him.”
Severino filled in admirably down the stretch, but is he ready for full-time duty behind the plate in the majors?
Ramos, who was more advanced at the plate, did play in 113 games as a 23-year-old in 2011.
Jose Lobaton is under team control through next season. If the Nationals don’t believe that Severino is ready, they’ll likely spend the next few weeks/months looking at some trades and free agents.
Will Rizzo spend big on a backstop that can be a bridge if he thinks Severino is in fact the future everyday catcher? Is the future now?