Earlier today, the Washington Nationals released their first wave of September call-ups. In doing so, have they kicked off the battle for the backup catcher position?
On August 22, the Nationals traded veteran backup catcher Kurt Suzuki back to the Oakland Athletics. They then called up Jhonatan Solano from Class AAA Syracuse to fill in at the backup catcher position. Prior to being called up, he hit .214 with 10 RBI and seven doubles over 40 games in Syracuse. In 37 at bats since his call-up, he’s gotten seven hits with two RBI.
Today, when the first wave of September call-ups were announced, catcher Sandy Leon was one of those names. In 95 games with Class AA Harrisonburg, Leon has batted a poor .177 with 26 RBI and 12 doubles. While he’s struggled at the plate, some believe that he is the franchise’s top defensive catcher in the minors.
Wilson Ramos is the obvious starter and the only question now is who will back him up? By the numbers, this is Solano’s job to lose. Both Solano and Leon have experience in MLB with the Nationals, but Solano right now is the better candidate.
As for whether we’ll see a battle or not, that remains to be seen. While the Nationals have three catchers on the MLB roster, I doubt we’ll see a three-man rotation behind the dish. Leon will more likely be used in a pinch-hit role or as a late-game sub.
The fact that the Nationals are still in the playoff chase also lessens the chances of us seeing Leon behind the plate often enough to get a good look at him. The Nationals are going to continue to play their best players throughout September, or at least as long as they are still mathematically into it.
For next spring training, the backup catcher battle will be between Leon and Solano. The Nationals could look to free agency to pick up Jose Molina or Brian McCann as both will be free agents at season’s end. If the Nationals decide they want to stay in house, they have two viable options in Leon and Solano.