With the recent acquisitions of Riley Adams and Keibert Ruiz, and Tres Barrera already being in the Nationals minor league system, the Nationals are set at players to catch the next new wave for the first time in a long time of Nationals pitching rotation. It’s nice after years of Matt Wieters underperformance and the steady-but-uninspiring upgrade to Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki; the Nationals have their most exciting catchers’ room, perhaps, in franchise history.
Before those two catchers and this next crop of catchers, the Nationals’ last offensive catcher on their roster was Wilson Romos back in 2011. During his seven years with the Nationals, Ramos had a batting average of .268, an OPS of .743, and a slugging percentage of .430. Romos played in 578 games, 2,109 at-bats which yielded him 83 home runs, 320 RBI’s. Romos’ was also solid behind the plate on defense.
Let’s take a closer look at the new trifecta of catchers that will lead the Nationals into the future.
The 23-year-old is widely considered one of the Nationals’ best prospects, if not the best. MLB Pipeline and Baseball America have him as the club’s number one, while FanGraphs has him second, behind only Josiah Gray (who the Nationals also have acquired). In his 23 games that he played with the Nationals this past season, Ruiz had a batting average of .284, an OPS of .743 with two home runs, three doubles with 81 at-bats. Not a bad way to kick off your career with the Washington Nationals. In Triple-A with the Dodgers and the Nationals, Ruiz put up impressive numbers to back up that prospect status. In 72 games between the two organizations, he has a line .310/.377/.616, producing a wRC+ of 141. If Ruiz can produce anything close to that at the big league level, that would make him one of the best offensive catchers in the game.
The 25-year-old Adams debuted with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Washington Nationals at the 2021 trade deadline for closer Brad Hand. Adams played for the University of San Diego. In April of 2021, Adams was promoted to major league baseball when then Blue Jays backup catcher Alejandro Kirk was placed on the 10-day injured list. On June 8, Adams made his MLB debut as the starting catcher against the White Sox, where he got his first career hit and a double. Riley Adams made his Nationals debut after the trade from the Blue Jays on August 7, 2021, where he hit his first home run and RBI.
Riley finished the 2021 season with 99 at-bats, two home runs, a batting average of .222, an slugging percentage of .384, and an OPS of .742. His time with the Nationals has already been impressive. Adams has already played in 35 games, had 71 at-bats, and has had two home runs, a batting average of .268, a slugging percentage of .465, and an OPS of .887.
The Washington Nationals drafted the 27-year-old Tres Barrera back in 2016 in the 6th round of that year’s amateur draft and was signed on June 16, 2016, to the Nationals. Barrera has been bouncing back and forth from the Nationals minor league system ever since; however, he has made many starts during that time. Barrera was a part of the 2019 Washington Nationals, where he played in two games. He played in 30 games this past year and started in 27 of those 30 games.
This past season, Barrera had a batting average of .264, an OPS of .758 a slugging percentage of .385. The 27-year-old hit 10 RBI’s, two home runs, and only committed two errors behind the plate.
These stats are extremely impressive and what’s even great about these players is that they are all in the early years of their careers, which means that they will be part of the Nationals core for years to come. It also puts the organization’s mind at ease that they no longer have to worry about the catching position to focus on someone else? We will not say who, but we think you know exactly who we are talking about.