The catching position for the Nationals has always been a question. Since Wilson Ramos left the team following the 2016 season, the Nationals have searched for the best catching tandem. They experimented with many different catchers, from Matt Wieters, Kurt Suzuki, and Yan Gomes, to name a few.
Just this year, the Nationals had the following players catch at one point during the season:
- Jonathan Lucroy (appeared in five games)
- Yan Gomes
- Alex Avila
- Jakson Reetz
- René Rivera
- Tres Barrera
However, with the recent acquisitions of two catching prospects during the trade deadline, the Nationals now have to think about who will be their starting catcher in 2022 and how many catchers should be on the Nationals roster. Two very important questions need to be answered, and we will take a stab at trying to answer these questions.
In the coming month, we will hopefully see the major piece of the trade with the Dodgers Keibert Ruiz make his Washington Nationals debut when rosters expand during September. If Ruiz is the real deal everyone says he is, Ruiz should be a lock for one of the two starting catching jobs for 2022. At Triple AAA Rochester, Ruiz has appeared in 14 games and has had 23 at-bats. With that, he has had a total of 15 hits, one home run, five doubles, seven RBI’s, and six stolen bases bringing his batting average to .283. Before getting traded to the Nationals, Ruiz appeared with the Dodgers Triple AAA team, the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
He appeared in 52 games, had 206 plate appearances which netted him 64 hits, 16 home runs, 18 doubles, 45 RBI’s, and a batting average of .311. On the field, he has started in 43 games in Oklahoma and 13 games in Rochester. During his time behind the plate, Ruiz has thrown out ten players trying to steal a base. We all know that he is ready for the next level.
During the past few games, we have seen catcher Riley Adams immediately impact the team. Adams, the seventeenth-ranked prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system, was a catcher acquired for Brad Hand on July 29, 2021. In the past seven games with the Nationals, Adams has had 19 at-bats, and has had four RBI’s, eight hits, scored five runs, and has a batting average of .421. In his nine games starting behind the plate, Adams has had a fielding percentage of 1.000%, with 65 putouts. However, he has allowed six stolen bases. Adams has the potential and can be a quality backup to Ruiz if needed.
One player you can’t forget is the “veteran” in the catching rotation: Tres Barrera, who has also had a huge impact on the team. In his last seven games, he has had 21 at-bats, two RBI’s, five hits, and a batting average of .238. Barrera has earned a spot in the roster come opening day or be part of the discussion.
What Should the Nationals do in 2022?
So with all these options, what should the Nationals do next season behind the plate? That’s the million-dollar question that needs to be answered. We all know that Keibert Ruiz could and should be the starting catcher on opening day, and the real question is who should back him up.
If the DH comes to the National League, it will give the Nationals additional young batting power from behind the plate, something they need and truly hasn’t had in a while. If not, It might be a smart idea to carry three catchers next year in case of extreme emergency, or Rochester is pretty close and easy to access and Barrera might the be catcher looking in and that’s a good option to have.
With all the injuries that the Nationals had to deal with this season, it will be a relief to have three great options to carry the team behind the plate.