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Position analysis: Catcher

Oct 3, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT

US Presswire photo
Wilson Ramos established himself as the Nats' No. 1 catcher this season.

Throughout the week, we'll be breaking down the Nationals' roster by position (catcher, infield, outfield, rotation and bullpen) and looking both where things stand at the end of the season and where things might stand moving forward. Today's position: Catcher…

WILSON RAMOS
Stats: 113 G, 435 PA, 15 HR, 52 RBI, .267 AVG, .334 OBP, .445 SLG
5 E, 32% CS rate, 3.1 WAR
2011 salary: $415,000
Contract status: Arb-eligible in 2014, free agent in 2017
Where he fits in: With a solid rookie season, Ramos firmly established himself as the Nationals' No. 1 catcher entering 2012. Though he slumped a bit in midseason, he finished strong, batting .324 with an .895 OPS over his final 39 games. His work behind the plate never slumped, whether in the throwing department or in calling games (several pitchers insisted they rarely, if ever, shook him off late in the season).

JESUS FLORES
Stats: 30 G, 91 PA, 1 HR, 2 RBI, .209 AVG, .253 OBP, .324 SLG
1 E, 20% CS rate, -0.1 WAR
2011 salary: $750,000
Contract status: Arb-eligible, free agent in 2014
Where he fits in: After missing nearly two years with a shoulderRead more »

  1. NatsJack in Florida - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    Mark…. Cole Leonida has been getting a lot of play along with Sandy Leon in the FIL. Both appear solid defensively.

  2. Nats1924 - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    Wow, Ramos is pretty much locked up until 2017? – crazy!With the Nats depth in the minors, trading Flores and resigning Pudge might not be that bad of an idea.Plus it be nice to see some history at Nats park when pudge gets his 3k hit.

  3. NatsJack in Florida - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    And then there is a 17 year old kid out of the Dominican Republic named Raudy Read that is getting his first taste of professional baseball in the FIL. He didn't have much of a bat in a couple of games in the DL but he sure has good size.

  4. Nats1924 - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    whats FIL ?

  5. natsfan1a - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    Florida Instructional League, I would think.

  6. Gonat - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    Flores 2 RBIs in 30 games when 1 of the RBIs came via a HR is not good. He had plenty of opportunities with the bat and besides 1 hot week he was very weak and overmatched at the plate.He put up pitchers type of numbers with RISP going .091 (2 for 22)My biggest surprise was the one poster here who said Flores should start over Ramos. Sheesh.

  7. DFL - Oct 3, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    Sadly, Norris has not followed his sterling 2008 and 2009 professional seasons with similar performances since. Next year probably will be a make or break season for Norris. Will he be a Gene Tenace type or will he be a Luke Montz type?

  8. MicheleS - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    HmmmNice article on the Uptons…not saying he is our CF choice, but the lack of production could be blamed on that concrete junk that he plays on…Sounds kind of like Andre Dawson and Olympic stadiumhttp://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20111002&content_id=25443682&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

  9. dj in Fl. - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    Thanks NatsJackSee you shortly

  10. N. Cognito - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    MicheleS said… "Nice article on the Uptons"I don't think they're in the mix at catcher.;^)

  11. MicheleS - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:23 PM

    NCog..hmmm.. you maybe right on that one ;-)I figure I just gave everyone something to chew on this morning, since the Catcher position is pretty well set for the next 5 years at a minimum. The only question we will have is who is the backup.

  12. fpcsteve - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:33 PM

    NatsJack, how does Norris remain a top prospect with his BA? I mean this as a serious question. I have seen people write that his BA is is low because he refuses to swing at pitches that aren't strikes (but end up being called strikes). I'm not sure I get it. Doesn't he have to show some possibility of hitting at least .240-.250 on the MLB level?

  13. Joe Seamhead - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    Mark, I think that Ramos improved quite a bit on his seemingly one weak defensive fault that he showed early in the year, that being hanging on to throws to the plate from the outfield. I seem to remember him dropping at least two, maybe three tags on close plays at the plate, but also remembering him hanging on to a couple late.Gosh, do you guys remember how hot that he hit in the beginning of the year? Then he went pretty flat for a big portion of the summer, then followed with an impressive August and September. I like Flores as a backup for now.It may be tough for him to handle, but it's probably what's best for the club. As Gonat pointed out, his bat was still pretty weak, making his trade value less then his value as our backup.

  14. natsfan1a - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    I welcome any and all links, MicheleS. :-)Speaking of links, those who weren't checking threads over the weekend might want to check out Mark's item having this title: ALDS Game 1 (cont): Tigers at Yankees At the bottom of the post, there's a very nice photo of a prospect who might just be a sleeper for Rookie of the Year, if you get my drift (wink).

  15. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 3, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Regarding the question "how does Norris remain a top prospect with his BA?": While Norris's .210 batting average isn't immediately enticing, check out his .367 OBP and and .446 SLG. That gives him an OPS of .813, which is — admittedly at AA — better than Ramos (who has an OPS of .774). Norris hit 20 HRs, 17 2Bs, and drew 77 BBs in 104 games. His career minor league BA is .249. I'd say he remains a top prospect and has earned the chance to move up to AAA.

  16. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Sorry: OBP for Ramos was .779 (but my point remains the same).

  17. Eugene in Oregon (sheepishly) - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:05 PM

    Oh, it's still early out here: OPS for Ramos was .779.

  18. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    The Nats may have the best organizational catching depth in the game right now, including minors and majors (Yanks are pretty solid, too). Norris remains a prospect, but I don't think that he is still a top one. I think you will see him drop out of the top 100 rankings this year because of the BA. The OBP is great, but I think he needs to show a better hit skill at this level of the minors than he has so far. In other words, I don't think that two straight years of low BA can just be ignored. He is young, and can bounce back, so by no means do I suggest writing him off. If he didn't have to move up to let Leon and Freitas move up too, I think repeating AA would be a good move for him.

  19. Mark'd - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    Norris won't even be in the Baseball America Top 10 prospects for the Nats. He is still a prospect, definitely no longer a Top prospect. He has good power and works the counts which are his strengths. A .367 OBP is good for AA when its associated with a Batting Average of at least .250 These numbers usually decline at each level of promotion. In Norris case, the pitchers will not be timid around the plate. If he can't hit for average they won't nibble on corners. His stats are similar to Adam Dunn + 50 points.There's nobody saying to disregard Dunn's .159 batting average because he has a .292 OBP and 42 RBIs.

  20. Mark'd - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    Eugene, you can't be serious comparing Ramos and Norris. That's like saying Archie Gilbert is better than Michael Morse because he hit .313 with a .382 OBP in AA.Norris is far from a Top Prospect. Until he can hit for average that OBP won't get him anywhere and that's the cold hard facts.Just ask Adam Dunn with his .292 OBP this year.

  21. MicheleS - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    1A.. thanks for the link to the FP PDF.. i hate when the WaPo has a "print" version and a online version. Glad to here that FP has a multi year deal.. Let's just hope they get the play by play guy locked down.

  22. FS - Oct 3, 2011 at 2:52 PM

    I think Flores needs to see everyday playing time to increase his value. Otherwise, he is just a backup on big league roster to Ramos. However putting him at AAA might hinder plans for other catchers so I can see why they insist on him being the backup. Another issue might be the options game, right?Anyways, glad to have Ramos as primary catcher. Would love to see Pudge back as backup.

  23. Mark'd - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:11 PM

    Albert sees 3.65 pitches per at-bat. Thats an average. When Pujols struggled getting hits this year his walk rate plummeted. Albert had a career low in BA at .299 and a career low in walks at 61.Albert said they throw me 4 pitches and I may get 1 good pitch to hit per at-bat, I can't miss my 1 chance in 4. If the best and most feared hitter in baseball isn't getting pitched around where his OBP exceeds his BA by .067, I don't see Norris exceeding that 67 point spread and Alberts largest spread was 116 points in 2009 when he won his 3rd MVP and hit 47 HRs.Norris has to start hitting that ONE GOOD PITCH.

  24. JaneB - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    Loved the story, MichelleS. Now, if we DO end up with BJ, I'll be less pre-disposed to be mad about whomever we gave away to get him. ;-) I hope Jesus lands somewhere next year where he can play and get in games. And that we keep Pudge for back up and mentor.

  25. MicheleS - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    Does anyone have the stats for what the average backup catcher is??? I mean I love Pudge, I want to keep Pudge, I think he will be a good backup and mentor as well. Is really any different than the average backup? And if Jesus can get an opportunity to catch full time somewhere else, I would love to see him get that chance because after all he has been through, I think he deserves it.

  26. jd - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    JaneB, I think that Lannan at $4.7 mil is approaching a point where he won't bring enough value. I think you bring Gorzo back at $2.8 mil and Flores at $800k. Mark'd I won't rehash my Norris arguments with you because I think we have gone over them enough. I will only say that I disagree with every aspect of your analysis.

  27. natsfan1a - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    You're welcome, MicheleS. And agreed.MicheleS said… 1A.. thanks for the link to the FP PDF.. i hate when the WaPo has a "print" version and a online version. Glad to here that FP has a multi year deal.. Let's just hope they get the play by play guy locked down. October 3, 2011 10:50 AM

  28. Mark'd - Oct 3, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    JD, oh humor me oh great one. My analysis to Pujols is the reality that Norris will never be more than a backup if he doesnt "see it, hit it". It's laughable comparing a AA to translate in those proportions to the Majors.Norris will be well below Mendoza if he doesn't change his approach at the plate.

  29. MicheleS - Oct 3, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    NatsJack/JD…Kilgore has an update on the FIL. Not sure if Mark will get the same info, so here is the link:a little concerned about the Rendon throwing issue…http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/post/anthony-rendons-status-and-more-nationals-instructional-league-notes/2011/10/03/gIQATyszHL_blog.html

  30. Gardner - Oct 3, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    I miss the logic in keeping 2 catchers who are at roughly the same point in their maturation (Ramos & Flores). Clearly Ramos is the starter going in to 2012 but I'd love a more seasoned backup – preferably one who can swing from the left side (not that those are growing on trees).

  31. Gonat - Oct 3, 2011 at 4:57 PM

    Mark'd, Norris has plate discipline which is a plus and few do it as well as he does. If he gets one more hit in every 20 ABs his average will be closer to .260 and his numbers will work.

  32. Anonymous - Oct 3, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    So was browsing WaPo at lunch, and noticed Boz was having a chat. And guess what.. it looks like there are more Baseball fans out there! Even after that football team won.. more questions on baseball/nats.. I know.. Boz is a baseball guy, but still!

  33. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:37 PM

    Speaking of Bos (and yesterday we were speaking of Greinke), I saw this from his chat (in response to a question about whether we will go after a FA pitcher). I found the 'players weren't decided on' line the most interesting:BTW, Greinke is a free agent after '12. The Nats were pretty shocked that their four-for-one deal for him last year (players never picked) fell through. Nobody's quite figured out the Fog of War aspects of that, with Greinke changing agents the next day. But the Nats might go after him again after they use '12 to find out about Detwiler, Peacock, Milone and Wang. It's an idea.

  34. Mark'd - Oct 3, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    Wally, interesting from Boz as Greinke spilled the beans that Jordan Zimmermann, Storen and Espinosa were part of the deal. I don't have the link to it.

  35. Mark'd - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    Gonat said… Mark'd, Norris has plate discipline which is a plus and few do it as well as he does. If he gets one more hit in every 20 ABs his average will be closer to .260 and his numbers will work. October 3, 2011 12:57 PM———————–Gonat, you say -If- he gets one more hit every 20 at-bats. That 50 point is the difference between a good Major Leaguer and a Hall-of-Famer!Kind of like if it was that easy everyone would be doing it.

  36. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    Mark'd – yes, I heard that too at the time. I am not saying that Bos knows more than Greinke (nor am I 100% certain that Greinke knew, or even, as Bos says, that the players were definitively agreed to), just passing it on as an interesting tidbit. Plus, we never truly know what was agreed to on deals that don't go through. I do think Storen and Espy were in there, but I still find it hard to believe that Rizzo would have agreed to put JZ in the deal. I mean, starting pitching is what he was trying to acquire, right?

  37. bups - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    Back in the days when baseball was sane, a .210 batting average in Harrisburg would have earned Norris a trip back to Hagerstown or Potomac. Now, he gets promoted to AAA at Syracuse?? What's down is up and what's up is down. I saw Norris play in Viera and he couldn't hit a lick. He also has serious defensive issues behind the plate. Let's not live in a fantacy world, Norris is no longer a prospect and even if he was, the Nats don't need a catcher.

  38. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:19 PM

    On Norris, I am in the camp that his star has fallen. Not as low as bups thinks, but lower than last year, when he followed a somewhat down year in A+ with a great AFL slash line of .278/.403/.667. It isn't just a low BA – this is his third straight year where BA, wOBA and wRC+ have declined and his K% has increased (now at 27.7%, which would have been 3rd worst in the majors last year). It is logical to expect a decline in stats as you move up levels, but that should be offset somewhat by the physical and mental maturation of the young kids, especially HS draftees like Norris. But since they will likely fall off much more moving from AAA to the pros, you want that number to be high before they are a top prospect.Like I said earlier, he is still young and can turn this around, and we should continue to give him that time. But as far as him being a top prospect to use for a CF or SP this offseason, I don't see it.

  39. Joe Seamhead - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    Gosh, Michele S, I thought from your concern, before I read the link, that there was something new concerning Rendon's throwing. There's nothing surprising there.Does anyone know where Kelly Goodwin goes for the fall/winter?

  40. jd - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    bups 'Back in the days when baseball was sane, a .210 batting average in Harrisburg would have earned Norris a trip back to Hagerstown or Potomac'. Because back in the day before people used any kind of analysis they didn't realize that a walk is nearly as good as a single and that OBP is 2.1 times more significant than slugging %. Before you dismiss modern day approach to team building have a look at Moneyball and keep in mind that almost all teams in baseball have adopted a similar approach. Mark'd Unlike you I always temper my opinions with the provision that these are strictly my opinions and I could very well be wrong.

  41. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    JD – but don't you agree that he has fallen off from his Hagerstown season? ISO is the only thing that has shown a positive trend line (and then only after ignoring a season for the hamate). Virtually everything else has trended down since then, so I think it is more than BA.

  42. jd - Oct 3, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    Wally, I do agree with you. I think A to AA is big jump (especially from low A) and he's only 22. My position is that as long as he maintains a high OBP as he moves up I'm not giving up on him. If he ever reaches a level where he doesn't get on base I'll admit I was wrong and move on but he did get on 37% of the time so he has not reached that level yet.

  43. Paul - Oct 3, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    Derek Norris at best is a below average catcher with some power if you can't hit at AA you for sure can't hit at the majors, and it doesn't matter if you walk or not. Derek will probably be back in Harrisburg next year either as the backup or at best a platoon catcher.

  44. Anonymous - Oct 3, 2011 at 7:27 PM

    I thought they were in the minors to learn how to be better baseball players.

  45. Anonymous - Oct 3, 2011 at 7:34 PM

    there are so many players in the minors that it is move up or out, cause your spot will be refilled next year

  46. MicheleS - Oct 3, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    @Joe S..I guess my concern is that we have yet another infielder whose throwing motion needs to be worked on. I am still not convinced that shoulder is strong enough…

  47. Bowdenball - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    Paul-Since when is a .367 OBP with 20 home runs not hitting? Because his batting average was low? Last time I checked the runs count the same if you get on base by walking or by slapping a single through the infield.As a general rule OBP translates very well to the majors. Guys generally lose about 15-20 points when the make the jump, but being selective and knowing the strike zone is most definitely a skill that translates well from the minors to the majors. MLB pitchers walk guys too. You may be right about Norris overall but it's wrong to say that "it doesn't matter whether you walk or not" because it very clearly does. If you walk a lot in the minors you're more likely to walk a lot in the majors.

  48. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    JD – ok, I get it and I am in the same spot as you. Not as high as he was, but definitely wouldn't give up on him. Since he is getting bashed pretty well here, I'll also make the argument to not give up on him: he has been young for virtually every level he has been at, just finishing AA at 22 (the average batter age was 24.2). And at that age, in addition to his high OBP (top 25 in his league), he slugged almost .500 (top 35), with a .237 ISO (Josh Hamilton level in pros – I can't find this stat for minors). Plus, there is a decent argument* that he was unlucky in 2011 since his BABIP dropped 50 points down to .251. And by most accounts that I have read, he continues to improve his defense to acceptable levels. Definitely not a guy to give up on.* I make this argument, but I am not sure it is right, and is at the heart of the potential concern over the low BA. In other words, it could be a troubling stat if he just isn't able to make good contact against the better pitching. This is where a scout's eye is very helpful. I do wish he could repeat AA and have some success; he would still be young for the league. But there are guys that need to move up too behind him, so I bet Mark is right that we see him in Syracuse next year.

  49. Anonymous8 - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    jd said… Wally,I do agree with you. I think A to AA is big jump (especially from low A) and he's only 22. My position is that as long as he maintains a high OBP as he moves up I'm not giving up on him. If he ever reaches a level where he doesn't get on base I'll admit I was wrong and move on but he did get on 37% of the time so he has not reached that level yet. October 3, 2011 2:55 PM JD, nobody is giving up on him except those who have this need for instant gratification. 2012 will be his year to prove he belongs.

  50. Anonymous - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    It probably behooves one to mention that Ramos 3.1 WAR was FOURTH on the team! After rookie 2B Danny Espinosa (first on team) with a 3.5, Michael "screw Morgan and the Brewers he's the real BEAST MODE" Morse with a 3.4, followed by the FOF of course and the Wilson Ramos. That means 2 rookies were in the top 4 in WAR for this team.

  51. Bowdenball - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:41 PM

    Wally-You're correct to make that point. .251 is really low, especially for someone with a good feel for the strike zone. In the NL only one of the 66 qualified hitters had a BABIP that low- Casey McGahee. The next lowest was Dan Uggla, and after that Yuniesky Betancourt. All three of those guys swing at a lot of bad pithes, as represented by their low OBPs. You have to go to Carlos Pena's .267 and Pujol's .277 to find guys with OBP's like Norris' who didn't do well on balls in play. Plus all of those guys had to deal with major league fielding on balls in play. Norris' .251 at AA is really low, hopefully an aberration. I think we'll find out a lot about him next season.

  52. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    Anon – technically, JZimm had the highest WAR at 3.9. 3.4 pitching WAR, and .5 batting WAR (according to Fangraphs, anyway).Anyway, not to take anything away from Ram Moose, he was great this year.

  53. Gonat - Oct 3, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    Wally, then lets mention the Bull Moose as he is the head moose and had a 2.1 WAR! Can't have a herd (or party) without the Bull Moose!Can't wait to have my shirt collection of BULL MOOSE, BEAST MOOSE & RAM MOOSE, MR. WALK-OFF, and THE OTHER ZIM #27, and THE ESPI GOES TO: #18

  54. NatsLady - Oct 3, 2011 at 10:51 PM

    According to baseball reference WAR (which is calculated differently than fangraphs), the top player for 2011 is (hold your breath)Tyler Clippard.http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/WSN/

  55. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    NatsLady – the differences between the two ways of calculating it are almost amazing. I haven't used B-R that much, and am less familiar with it than Fangraphs, but my quick read is that Fangraphs places more weight on positional value, and B-R on leverage situations. B-R seemed to give more intuitively better rankings on batters (ie Morse feels like the most valuable position player this year to me, and he is highest WAR in B-R), but Fangraphs 'feels' like it gives better results to pitchers. Meaning, it doesn't feel like Clip had more value than JZ in half the innings.I don't use any of these metrics as absolute, just as sanity checks or for a different way to look at something, so I don't see them as 'right' answers, just ranges.

  56. Wally - Oct 3, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    Gonat- seems like a great marketing opportunity for Moosehead beer. Free beer in the Red Porch when one of the Moose Herd goes yard.The Moose is loose.

  57. Gonat - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:14 AM

    Wally I love it. .I also came up with a LH Free Agent catcher. Brian Schneider. He would make a good 1 day a week backup.

  58. Anonymous - Oct 4, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    just to reply someone who says a 210 average would have/should earn Norris a trip back to hagers and not a promotion to AAA. The organization definately knows what they are doing and they probably know better than all of us. looking at our minor league stats from last year, There are many guys in the system that 1 wondered why they should be getting promotion as they did pretty poorly, only for them to suprise me and do well in the higher level. Two of these guys were Michael Taylor and Kevin Keyes. There stats from last year were so atrocious that you would have thought they had no future in this organization, but alas, they are both had good years and are being looked at as key prospects in our system.

  59. Anonymous - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    "According to baseball reference WAR (which is calculated differently than fangraphs), the top player for 2011 is (hold your breath)"Natslady the folks at Fangraphs basically invented the WAR. For starters.Finally who do you think was more valuable to their team this year CJ Wilson with a 5.9 Fangraphs WAR or Tyler Clippard. Note where Texas is in relation to the Nats.

  60. Anonymous - Oct 4, 2011 at 1:42 AM

    Norris needs to learn the art of catching with close-to-major league pitchers. The defensive part comes first. The offense will likely catch up by-and-by.

  61. Anonymous - Oct 4, 2011 at 3:43 AM

    The debate going on here about Norris raises an interesting question: How good is Minor League walk percentage at predicting Major League walk percentage, and how does it fare as a predictor relative to batting average and slugging stats? It is certainly the case that a catcher who walks a lot, and has a lot of power, can succeed in the Majors; I just don't know if it is reasonable to believe that Norris's success in those two areas should be expected to continue in the Majors.- NatsFanCorky

  62. Anonymous - Oct 13, 2011 at 4:15 AM

    Norris cant hit, when you walk 70 times and hit .200 you cant hit period…Funny how teams makes excuses for some of their people when they under perform..Umpires are calling strikes on pitches that arent strikes..GOOD ONE….Lets make that excuse for everyone who strikes out..If pitchers dont throw strikes in the big leagues they dont stay very long..Good luck with Billy Beane ball..Daric Barton..Works well for him..

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