WASHINGTON – The combined age of the two main catchers for the Nationals the past two seasons is 70.
That, of course, represents Yan Gomes (33) and Kurt Suzuki (37), a tandem that aided a World Series team in 2019 that obviously got a year older this past season.
So there is an opportunity for young catchers in the system, and one of them is Israel Pineda, who turned 20 in April.
It may be a stretch to think he could be a backup in 2021 in the majors – he was at low Single-A Hagerstown in 2019.
But the Nationals are high on the native of Venezuela, a late add to the 60-player pool in Fredericksburg, VA this summer, then part of Instructional League in West Palm Beach, FL in October.
“His throwing improved this year. Being around older players really helped him” in Virginia, assistant general manager, player development Mark Scialabba told Federal Baseball.
“We are really happy we were able to bring him to Fredericksburg. He started to show more leadership qualities with some of our younger players. He is in a good place right now,” the farm director added.
The Nats have been stockpiling power pitchers in the system.
“You have to have somebody back there that you trust,” Scialabba said, “with sliders and breaking balls” in the dirt.
Pineda hit .217 in 101 games with seven homers in 2019 with Hagerstown.
He played in the Gulf Coast League in 2017 and with Auburn in the New York-Penn League the next year.
Pineda has played in 164 games at the pro level and has a batting average of .239.
But defense is the most important thing for any catcher – especially one who strives to be at least a backup in the majors.
Other catchers on the Instructional League roster in Florida were:
Geraldi Diaz, 20; Mason Doolittle, 22; Brady Lindsly, 22; Ivan Murzi, 19 Wilmer Perez, 22; and Ray Torres, 20.
Lindsly was the only member of the group drafted in 2020. Torres was signed earlier this year as a non-drafted free agent.
Pineda is the only member of the group to reach the Single-A level.
Jackson Reetz, 24 and another catcher, was on the 60-player pool in Virginia but was not on the initial roster in Florida for Instructs. He was a third-round pick in 2014 out of a high school in Nebraska and played at high Single-A Potomac in 2019; he was also there in 2018.
He has a .238 average and .720 OPS in 395 games in the minors.