Two years ago, I remember sitting at a table with the Did The Tribe Win Last Night staff discussing whom we thought would be breakout players that season. We got on the subject of Lou Marson and had a “Lou Lovefest” for a few minutes before moving on the next player. Some of us had high hopes for Marson during that 2013 season.
However, in April, Marson was placed on the DL with a sore shoulder. Suddenly, Yan Gomes was the name coming out of our mouths and it was starting to be said that Marson should probably find an apartment in Columbus for the foreseeable future.
Gomes earned himself a position with the 2013 bench, nicknamed “The Goon Squad,” as he assumed the role of backup catcher behind Carlos Santana once Marson made his way to AAA. However, it soon became clear that Gomes had an ability that other catchers on the squad lacked. Santana saw a little less time behind the plate as the season drew to a close, and Gomes quickly made his way into Indians’ fans everyday discussion.
In only a few short seasons, Gomes has risen through the ranks of the Indians organization to become not only the team’s regular catcher but arguably one of the best catchers in the league, though his abilities seem to fly a bit under the radar outside of Cleveland. However, should Gomes’ talents remain strong, there is little doubt that he’ll quickly become a household name in the greater baseball community. His ability to throw out runners stealing bases has led to rampant use of the phrase, “You don’t run on Yan,” and his prowess behind the plate even led to Santana’s position shift last season to the infield.
Gomes won a Silver Slugger award last year for his offensive performance, along with outfielder Michael Brantley, when he hit .278 for the year with 21 home runs and 74 RBI. He hit .294 in 88 games in 2013, with 11 home runs and 38 RBI. Prior to coming to Cleveland, Gomes played 43 games for the big league Toronto Blue Jays in 2012, where he hit .204 with four home runs and 20 hits.
According to ESPN, Gomes was fifth in all of MLB catchers in 2014 with a 4.4 WAR, and led the American League in the same statistic.
However, it’s not just Gomes’ abilities at the plate that make him a strong asset to the roster. As stated before, Gomes is in the top ranks of catchers currently in the game of baseball. Not only is his defense sharp and accurate, but his connection with the pitchers on the staff cannot be denied. Last season, Carlos Carrasco turned around his performance on the mound, Trevor Bauer finally made some big progression, and Corey Kluber won the American League Cy Young award. Not to take away from the talents of these pitchers, but having Gomes behind the plate during such tremendous accomplishments doesn’t just appear to be coincidence. Gomes clearly has a knack knowing the situations a pitcher faces while on the mound and knowing which pitches to call. Bauer particularly has made waves for shaking off catchers when he did not agree with their decisions, so for him to be able to not only hone his own pitching abilities but work well with a catcher, too, speaks to Gomes’ strength in his role.
Thus far in Spring Training, Gomes has hit .303 in 14 games, with 10 hits, three doubles, and two home runs. He has knocked in six runs and is posting a 1.015 OPS. He has not committed any errors. Fans should not worry that Gomes will be anything less than ready when the season starts, and all evidence points to Gomes being just as productive and strong as he was last year.
Should Gomes need an off day, the Indians have Roberto Perez to fill his shoes behind the plate. Young catchers such as Tony Wolters, Jake Lowery, and Eric Haase are also making their way through the system, though their Major League debuts do not threaten the current status of the Tribe’s catchers. Gomes has made a name and a place for himself behind home plate for the Indians, and it’s not a post he will likely have to vacate any time soon.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer