The 2013 Washington Nationals are loaded in several positions and appear to be favorites for a possible World Series run. They are not only loaded in top talent, but much of that talent is also young. Catching is one position the Nationals have very little worries.
Last season, the Nats were set behind the plate with Wilson Ramos as starter and Jesus Flores as backup. However, injury gripped the Nats early in the season when Ramos tore his ACL just 25 games in the 2012 season. The Nats moved forward with Flores taking over the starting role and recalling rookie Sandy Leon to fulfill the backup role. Unfortunately for the Nats, injury bad luck continued as Leon went down to injury in a plate collision in his his major league debut. The Nats then recalled another rookie, Johonatan Solano.
On August 3, 2012, the Nats pulled off what I deemed to be the acquisition of the 2012 season by the Nats, sending prospect catcher David Frietas to Oakland for veteran Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki was instrumental in leading the Nats to their first playoff appearance and wrapping up their first division title. In 93 at bats, Suzuki batted .301 with a .482 slugging percentage over the final 26 games. He added 5 doubles and 5 home runs. Before his acquisition, Suzuki batted just .218 in Oakland and increased that average to .267 over 43 games with the Nats. The Nationals acquired Suzuki out of concern for Flores' defense. Suzuki gave the Nats unexpected punch at the plate. Better yet, Suzuki came to DC with an additional year on his contract.
The Nats enter training camp with two quality starters behind the plate in Ramos and Suzuki. Ramos is still recovering from his ACL and torn meniscus surgery and is not expected to be 100% by the time spring training starts with pitchers and catchers reporting in just one week. Suzuki will more than likely open the season as the starter. Any notion that there will be a Ramos and Suzuki battle for the starting job at training camp is likely not reality. The Nats will take their time in rolling Ramos back into the swing of catching duties.
In the wings:
Sandy Leon did appear in 12 games for the Nats in 2012. In 36 plate appearances, he batted .267 with 2 doubles, 2 runs, and 2 RBI. He allowed 3 passed balls and threw out 14% of attempted base steals. Solano appeared in 12 games for the Nats and batted .314 with 3 doubles and 2 home runs. He also drove in 6 runs. He threw out 38% of steal attemps and allowed 2 passed balls. Nats also have AAA catcher Carlos Maldonaldo. He did not record a hit in 9 plate appearances for the Nats in 2012. The Nats drafted Erick Fernandez in 2011. He appeared in 97 games at high A Potomac last season and batted .237 with 1 double. The Nationals slected Adrian Nieto in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. Nieto batted .257 with 17 doubles, 6 home runs, and 39 RBI in 70 games at Low A Hagertsown. Cole Leonida was a 2010 draft pick and appeared in 56 games for Hagerstown and batted .191. Jeremy Mayo is another 2010 draft pick in the system. Washington drafted two catchers in the 2012 draft. Spencer Keiboom was drafted in the fourth round and spent his rookie season in Auburn. Kieboom weas drafted because of his defensive prowess. In 41 games at Auburn, Keiboom batted .258 with 6 doubles and 20 runs driven in. The Nats also drafted Craig Manuel last year. He split time with Kieboom at Auburn and batted .266 in 44 games.