There is always concern when the franchise must trade some of its best prospects at certain positions. This offseason, it was pitcher and catcher, and Derek Norris had carried the flag as the best Nationals backstop prospect for what seemed like many years.
With his trade to the Oakland A’s, does that mean that the depth at catcher has dried up? Not in the least.
With so many outstanding catchers still in the system - from Cole Leonida to Adrian Nieto, from David Frietas to Jhonathan Solano - the Nationals are still well-stocked.
Short-season Single-A Auburn Doubledays manager and roving instructor Gary Cathcart has worked every day the past month with all of these guys, and because they are doing so well, the coaches are taking a closer look at their talent.
“Our catching situation is pretty solid, compared to some of the places I have been and some of the situations I have seen,” Cathcart said. “We are pretty deep at the higher levels at catcher. Jhonathan Solano, who was in Syracuse last year, is a tremendous catcher, as well. Frietas is also doing very, very well.”
But one catcher I heard a lot about before last season was Sandy Leon. During spring workouts in 2011, one of the Nationals’ coaches told me he felt the Venezuelan was one of two players on the Single-A Potomac Nationals that was a sure bet to make it to the majors.
The switch-hitting Leon was consistent defensively and solid at calling games, hitting .251 in 109 games with six homers and 43 RBI. But during spring training this year, Leon has made a positive impression playing against the Nationals’ top players.
Cathcart said Leon is one guy “that has jumped out” during March workouts in Viera, Fla.
“Sandy really turned some heads at the major league camp,” Cathcart said. “His swing is getting better. His defense has been touted for a couple years. Leon is a major league catcher. He is smart. He can throw as well as anyone I have seen. He can call a game. His whole command as a young, Latin player is impressive. He speaks very good English - he has taken that upon himself (to learn the language). He is what you want in a catcher. He is going to be the everyday catcher in Harrisburg.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised, and I might be going out on a limb here, if you saw him in the major leagues at some time this year, depending on how it shakes out.”
Those strong words are a sure sign that the Nationals’ catching spot may have several stars in the making and Leon has moved to the top of the line at catching position within the system.
“Sandy Leon ... has been absolutely as good a minor league catcher as I have seen in quite some time for a 23-year old,” Cathcart said.