Do the Indians have the best catching duo in the American League?
Yan Gomes admitted during Tribe Fest that he was leery the first half of last season about taking days off due to the Indians’ lack of a consistent backup at catcher.
Carlos Santana played in 10 games behind the plate, but that ended once he suffered a concussion in late May. George Kottaras was up briefly a couple times and had a two home-run game. It wasn’t until early July though when Roberto Perez got called up that Terry Francona decided to carry two catchers. With Gomes winning a Silver Slugger award and Perez having a solid rookie season, the Indians arguably have one of the top young catching duos in the majors as spring training begins this week.
"I am thankful for him," said Gomes of Perez. "It was tough to take a day off (last year) without guys knowing our pitching staff but Roberto did a pretty unbelievable job of coming in. Guys trusted him, and we had a good dialogue of talking to each other."
Even though Francona stresses Gomes’ defense and handling of the pitching staff above everything else, Gomes’ offense bolstered the bottom of the order. He led American League catchers in batting average (.278) and OPS (.785), was second in RBI (74) and third in home runs (21). Over the second half of the season, he hit .303, and his .847 OPS was 12th in the American League among those with at least 200 plate appearances.
Defensively, Gomes had nine errors in his first 28 games before committing just five the rest of the season. He caught 27 of 93 baserunners with his 29 percent success rate second highest among AL catchers.
"He came out of the chute rushing some throws and that’s going to hurt his fielding percentage. Other than that, I thought he had a spectacular year," Francona said. "I think (Kansas City’s) Salvador Perez is a really good player. I don’t want this to come out (wrong) in any fashion because he’s really good. But if you look at Gomer’s year, Gomer outperformed him by 100 points in OPS. He threw out the same number of runners the last two years, playing 45 fewer games. This guy is really a good player."
As Gomes and the pitching staff have continued to develop, this season should be better for Gomes offensively and defensively. Plus he has a full season of playing every day and held up with the exception of a concussion in August. Gomes’ catcher ERA of 3.68 was fourth in American League among those who played 91 games or more.
"I’m excited to get to get back to work with all these guys. We all played well the second half of the season and things developed. We’ve got a lot of names that will make things exciting," Gomes said.
Perez proved that he could play in the majors by hitting .271 in 29 games, but his strength is working with pitchers as he had a 2.60 catcher ERA. He caught 10 of TJ House’s 18 starts and had an ERA of 2.59. When Perez does play, he is likely to hit ninth as he was 17-for-50 when hitting at the bottom of the lineup.
2014 STARTS AT CATCHER: Gomes 121, Perez 35. Santana 10, Kottaras 6.
CATCHER PROSPECT TO WATCH: Tony Wolters — In his second full season as a catcher last year in Double-A Akron, Wolters threw out 47 percent of baserunners and hit .249. Previously a second baseman/ shortstop, Wolters was moved to catcher in 2013 due to the Tribe’s glut of talented infielders. After taking part in the Arizona Fall League, Wolters could start the season in either Akron or Columbus.
2014 ORGANIZATION DEPTH CHART (15 or more games at catcher): Columbus — Luke Carlin/Perez/Kottaras; Akron — Wolters/Alex Lavisky/Jake Lowery; Carolina — Jeremy Lucas/Alex Monsalve/Ryan Battaglia; Lake County — Eric Haase/Richard Stock; Mahoning Valley — Francisco Mejia/Martin Cervenka; Arizona Rookie — Li-Jen Chu/Kevin Calderon/Simeon Lucas; Dominican Summer — Jason Rodriguez/Wagner Ramirez/Jose Vicente.