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Then & Now: Yan Gomes

Then & Now: Yan Gomes
February 26, 2013
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Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Baseball Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a player's past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the player's future.

Versatility (noun) — having a wide variety of skills.

Power hitting, speed, slick fielding — all three skills can play a large part in determining the chances of success for a Major League baseball player.

But what about a player who may not be great in any one particular area, but is good in a number of areas? Recent Indians acquisition Yan Gomes seems to fall into that category.

The versatile Gomes was acquired by the Cleveland Indians along with Mike Aviles in early November when the Tribe sent Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Gomes is the first Brazilian-born player to reach the Major Leagues. While his primary position is catcher, Gomes has also played first base, third base, left field and designated hitter in either the major or minor leagues.

Versatility like this could serve the 25-year-old well. For instance, a typical backup catcher is just that — a backup. However, Gomes could serve that role, but his versatility allows him to stay in a lineup if he were to ever get hot at the plate.

However, before any of that can happen, Gomes must first make the Major League roster, which he is currently attempting to do in Spring Training. It may be a long shot for Gomes to make the team out of Spring Training, but his future is bright, and it should not be long before the right-handed hitter finds himself in Cleveland.

Then:

Gomes was originally drafted in the 39th round of the 2008 Draft by the Boston Red Sox. However, he did not sign that season, so he was then drafted the following season out of Barry University in the 10th round by the Blue Jays.

It did not take long for Gomes to make his professional debut as he spent four games with Toronto’s rookie ball club before heading to Single-A Auburn of the New York-Penn League. Gomes spent 60 games there to end the 2009 season, and his overall line was quite impressive.

Gomes compiled a .296/.363/.444 line to go along with two home runs and 44 RBI. Gomes also impressed behind the plate and threw out 38 percent of would-be base stealers that season.

Gomes progressed to the Midwest League for seven games in 2010 before being promoted to High-A Dunedin where he would spend the rest of the season. Between the two affiliates, Gomes compiled a .270/.309/.471 line. It was also the first time that he displayed some power potential in his career as he socked 23 doubles and nine home runs to go along with 48 RBI.

His caught-stealing percentage stayed relatively consistent that season at 30 percent, but not everything was perfect. For example, plate discipline seemed to be a problem for Gomes as he walked just 12 times while striking out 75 times.

Nonetheless, problems like that are often overlooked when a team has a young, developing offensive catcher on its hands, so Gomes was still promoted to Double-A New Hampshire the following season.  Gomes’ caught-stealing percentage remained consistent at 33 percent, but his time at the position also decreased that season as he played first base in 20 games.

His offensive numbers also took a bit of a hit as the right-handed hitter compiled a .250/.317/.464 line in 79 games. Regardless, the Blue Jays still decided to promote Gomes to the Triple-A level for four games to conclude the season.

Now:

Gomes started the 2012 season at Triple-A Las Vegas, which is exactly where he ended the 2011 season. Only this time, the results were much more favorable.

It’s hard to say exactly what happened here. Perhaps it was happenstance? Maybe it was luck? Or maybe just everything started to come together for Gomes because the 2012 season was certainly unlike any other season in Gomes’ career.

For the majority of his minor league career, Gomes was an average to an above-average offensive player. However, in 2012, Gomes played like an elite offensive player. In 79 games, Gomes compiled a .328/.380/.557 line with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 59 RBI at the highest level of the minor leagues.

However, Gomes’ time at catcher had also significantly decreased as he played only 35 games at catcher and spent more time at the infield corners. Throughout the season, the Blue Jays continually brought Gomes up to the Major League roster where his overall line was .204/.264.,367 with four home runs in 43 games. The numbers leave a lot to be desired, but it’s hard to fault Gomes too much, especially when you consider that he was bouncing back-and-forth between Triple-A Las Vegas and Toronto.

Gomes’ stint in Toronto officially ended on Nov. 2 last year when the Indians shipped Rogers to the Blue Jays to acquire Gomes and Aviles.

Gomes is currently in Spring Training with the Indians where he is competing for a chance to supplant the incumbent Lou Marson as the Tribe’s backup catcher. It may be a long shot, but the results so far have been quite nice.

In three games and five at-bats this spring, Gomes has gone 2-for-5 with a double, a home run and five RBI. Not too shabby for five at-bats, eh?

Future:

While it may be unlikely that Gomes makes the Indians out of Spring Training, he is most certainly on the team’s radar and could become an option later in the year.

His offensive numbers are impressive, but fans should remember that he spent a lot of last season playing one of the infield corner spots. Some fine-tuning behind the plate could serve him well, which is why he will likely be sent to Triple-A Columbus to handle the catching duties. 

Gomes can, however, force the Indians’ hand if he continues to rake at the Triple-A level. Offensive catchers remain a rarity in Major League Baseball, and the Indians have been lucky enough to find themselves one in Carlos Santana. But what if Gomes continues to progress in his offensive development? It seems as if the Tribe would then have a very potent offensive duo behind the plate.

If Spring Training offers any indication, that scenario could be closer than we think.

Previous Then & Now profiles:

Steve can be reached via email at orbaneks@gmail.com.

User Comments

Rich
February 27, 2013 - 1:00 PM EST
Thanks, Matthew, I didn't know that.
Matthew
February 27, 2013 - 9:03 AM EST
Rich--

Toronto "moved him out of the catching position" because Travis D'Arnaud moved to the same level and D'Arnaud is a top 25 prospect in all of baseball, so he was the priority in their system. They also wanted to give him some versatility because with Arencibia already at the MLB level and D'Arnaud knocking on the door, he was likely going to be squeezed out, so they wanted to try to give him some additional options to be an ML contributor.
Rich
February 27, 2013 - 8:15 AM EST
"For the majority of his minor league career, Gomes was an average to an above-average offensive player. However, in 2012, Gomes played like an elite offensive player. In 79 games, Gomes compiled a .328/.380/.557 line with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 59 RBI at the highest level of the minor leagues.

However, Gomes’ time at catcher had also significantly decreased as he played only 35 games at catcher and spent more time at the infield corners."

OK, so he had one good year in AAA at age 24 after being mediocre offensively up until then. And it was in the hitter-friendly PCL, playing his home games in the desert where the ball carries farther and the infields are rock-hard. I'm just not convinced this guy is a big upgrade over Lou Marson. Hope he is, though.

Secondly, the Blue Jays appeared to be moving him away from the catching postion last year. Why? Catchers who can hit are a rare and valuable commodity. My guess is they don't think his defense as a catcher plays at a major league level.

He kind of reminds me of Chun Chen (sorry if I got the name wrong), a good hitter who the Indians moved from catcher to first base because of his lack of defense.

It's nice he can play the corner infield positons, but we have Chiz and Aviles at 3rd and four guys who can play first base (Reynolds, Swish, Santana, and McGuinness or McCabe, whoever makes the team).

I guess he can be a backup left- or right-fielder, but I'd rather see Fedroff or Zeke in that role.

If Marson moves on after this year he could be the backup catcher, but that brings up the question of why Toronto moved him out of the catching position last year.

Matt
February 26, 2013 - 9:20 PM EST
It's nice to have a natural defensive catcher like Marson on the roster to balance an offensive minded catcher like Santana. He's not only a good arm and glove but a guy who can call a game and handle a pitching staff. He can settle the staff if they have 2 or 3 bad starts in a row. The Indians seem to break catchers into those 2 groups, Monsalve is probably the only catcher above LC who is potentially above average both offensively and defensively. That makes it hard for guys like Gomes who duplicate many of Santana's skills.
Chip
February 26, 2013 - 9:19 PM EST
I think he is well on his way to becoming a solid major league player. I doubt he ever wins a gold glove or a silver slugger, but he's better than most and certainly more of an offensive asset than Marson. I hope they can keep McGuinness because I can see guys like him, Gomes, and McDade being part of a potent lineup.
Thiago
February 26, 2013 - 8:05 PM EST
Regardless of Gomes making the team or not, to have him debut last year and fight for a spot on a major league roster this spring is really exciting for every ball player down here in Brazil, where baseball is still way overlooked. Being a catcher and also a tribe fan, I am rooting sincerely for the guy to grab a chance! Go Yan, go tribe!
Joe Chengery
February 26, 2013 - 7:06 PM EST
Rich,

Marson is not a lock long-term for the Indians. For 2013, probably; beyond that, up in the air, and with Gomes on board and continued development, his replacement. In addition, Gomes can play a lot more positions and may have a better bat, plus not be that much of a drop-off from Marson, who wasn't that good defensively in 2012 (partly his doing, partly the pitchers' inability to hold baserunners).

Besides that, most back-ups aren't "great at one position"- that's why they're usually back-ups. If they were great at one position, they'd be starters; the fact that Gomes is only 25-YO, can play multiple positions, will be relatively cheap, and show promise both offensively and defensively makes that trade with Toronto another shrewd move by Antonetti that doesn't get talked about as much as the Choo deal.

Never mind the fact that you also got a quality player in Aviles for a guy with a solid arm but not much of a solid track record in Rogers. I certainly agree with Tony that I like Gomes being aboard and potentially being here for a while.
Andy
February 26, 2013 - 7:04 PM EST
I wonder if the Blue Jays wish they hadn't traded Gomes since they had to include d'Arnaud to make the RA Dickey deal work? That's a big hit to the depth of one position in a month's time.
Jwahoo
February 26, 2013 - 6:37 PM EST
What a good deal and underrated deal trading Rogers for Aviles and Yan was huh?

I see Yan as a guy who could be a major part of the club going forward. Next year he could back up at catcher, DH, and back up at 1B, 3B and LF, RF. If he continues to hit well we could just move him around those positions to continue to keep his bat in the lineup and give guys rest. If we could keep McGuiness I could see both of them spending alot of time at DH next season.
Rich
February 26, 2013 - 5:56 PM EST
He's already 25 years old so I don't know how much better he's going to get. Last year looks like an anomaly due in part to hitting in a hitter-friendly league. How do his Las Vegas numbers compare to the league average and what did current Toronto players hit when they came through Vegas?

I don't think his versatility is a big deal. We have Aviles to back up Chiz at 3rd. We have Swisher and possibly McGuinness to back up Reynolds at first, and Santana can also play there. We have Marson as the backup catcher.

What this team could use are guys that are great at one position rather than mediocre at 3 or 4. It will probably take another injury to Chiz or Santana to get this guy to the bigs.
Jason
February 26, 2013 - 5:35 PM EST
While the improvement last season was nice, keep in mind the Pacific Coast League's overall inflated numbers. The overall league avg there is about 25 points higher than the International League. Having said that, I'd love to see him develop so we can have a backup catcher with a decent bat.
Tony
February 26, 2013 - 5:15 PM EST
I really like the Gomes pickup. He won't be a world beater, but a solid depth option at a position of need, actually two positions as a catching option and a corner utility guy. I think he is all but certain to open in Columbus to ease him into things and be a reinforcement in waiting.
Mr. Overused Phrase
February 26, 2013 - 3:26 PM EST
However....

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