WASHINGTON – Yan Gomes has seemed to discover the Fountain of Youth for the Washington Nationals, while Alex Avila is another major league veteran who gives the club a solid backup at catcher.
Gomes was hitting .254 with seven homers through Monday and was among the best in the league in throwing out runners.
The Nationals are once again relying on veterans behind the plate, just as they did with Gomes and Kurt Suzuki during the title run in 2019.
And that may be out of necessity, as the club has developed few major league-caliber catchers in the past decade.
One exception is Pedro Severino, who is now with the Baltimore Orioles.
Down on the farm, the offensive numbers for the regular catchers in the minors are not so hot (all stats as of Tuesday morning, 6/29/21):
*Triple-A Rochester catcher Tres Barrera, who has limited Major League time, is hitting .211 for Rochester in 35 games.
*Double-A Harrisburg catcher Jakson Reetz, a third-round pick of the Nationals in 2014, may be running out of time to impress. He turned 25 earlier this year and was hitting .234 as this week began. He was drafted out of a Nebraska high school by Washington. Catcher Alex Dunlap is hitting .189 for the Senators. He was drafted by the Nationals in the 29th round in 2017.
*High Single-A Wilmington catcher Israel Pineda, 21, who got valuable experience last year at the alternate site, has struggled at the plate this year. He was hitting .171 in games through Sunday but did have seven homers and 21 RBIs in 152 at-bats. Brady Lindsly, drafted in the fourth round in 2020 out of Oklahoma, was hitting .232 for the Blue Rocks.
*Low Single-A Fredericksburg catcher Geraldi Diaz, who turns 21 next month, is hitting .214 while Allan Berrios, another catcher, is batting .186.
Offense, of course, is not the most important factor for a catcher, especially one who plays once a week in the Majors. But the Nationals would certainly like to see more offense from their catching prospects.
Pineda got valuable exposure last summer in Fredericksburg and hit some long homers in Florida before this season began up north.
“His throwing improved this year. Being around older players really helped him” in Virginia, assistant general manager, player development Mark Scialabba told Federal Baseball last October about Pineda.
“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.
Former Major League catcher Michael Barrett worked in player development for several years and assisted with catchers in Washington’s system.
He left the organization prior to this season and among those that replaced him was Jake Lowery, a former catcher in the minors with Washington. But Lowery is also in his first season as the manager for the Nationals in the Florida Complex League and he won his debut on Monday against the Cardinals 3-1.
Among others in player development with Washington that have a background in catching is Matt LeCroy, the former Nationals’ backstop who is the Rochester manager.
Rochester first baseman Jake Noll, an emergency catcher, had three hits Sunday in an 8-4 win over Worcester while third baseman Carter Kieboom had two hits to lift his average to .258. Former Red Sox’ catcher Blake Swihart, who started in right field for Rochester, scored four runs as the leadoff hitter and had two hits as his average rose to .209.