His stock having tumbled, Severino faces uncertain future

As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Pedro Severino, whose opportunity to be the club’s No. 1 catcher didn’t go as well as hoped.

PLAYER REVIEW: PEDRO SEVERINO

Age on opening day 2019: 25

How acquired: Signed as international free agent, December 2010

MLB service time: 1 year, 90 days

2018 salary: $545,000

Contract status: Under team control through 2020, arbitration-eligible in 2021, free agent in 2024

2018 stats: 70 G, 213 PA, 190 AB, 14 R, 32 H, 9 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB, 0 CS, 18 BB, 47 SO, .168 AVG, .254 OBP, .247 SLG, .501 OPS, 1 DRS, -0.8 fWAR, -1.1 bWAR

Quotable: “I didn’t put up the offensive numbers that I would have liked to, or was expected. I feel like that is part of the reason (for the demotion). I just have to keep working hard and, hopefully, get another chance and opportunity.” - Severino, via interpreter Octavio Martinez, after he was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse

2018 analysis: For years, the Nationals touted Severino as their “Catcher of the Future,” but eventually, they knew, they were going to have to throw him to the wolves and find out once and for all if he could live up to the billing. Circumstances finally put them in a position to find out this season, but the answer wasn’t what they wanted.

Though he opened the year at Triple-A, Severino was back in the big leagues during the Nationals’ first road trip after Matt Wieters was placed on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. And when original No. 2 catcher Miguel Montero left the club while his wife was giving birth, Severino was thrust into the starting lineup. He proceeded to go 6-for-15 with two doubles, three RBIs and a .571 on-base percentage, and that performance convinced the club to keep him in Washington and release Montero (who had gone 0-for-11 at the plate).

Severino-Throws-White-Sidebar.jpgSeverino held his own as Wieters’ backup, but when the veteran suffered a serious hamstring injury in May, his young replacement collapsed under the weight of the job. During a two-month stretch while Wieters was on the DL, Severino hit a paltry .124 with a .393 OPS. Making matters worse, he labored behind the plate as well, at a time when the Nationals’ pitching staff needed assistance from its batterymate.

All of that forced the club to make a tough (but completely necessary) decision once Wieters returned in July: Severino was sent back to Syracuse, and Spencer Kieboom was kept as the No. 2 catcher. Severino returned in September but saw minimal action to close out a hugely disappointing year.

2019 outlook: Where, exactly, does Severino stand within the organization now? It’s hard to say. Clearly, the Nationals are no longer counting on him to step up and their No. 1 catcher for the long-term. But he may not even be in the conversation for the No. 2 job, either.

The club is all but certain to acquire a new starting catcher this winter, with Wieters becoming a free agent. But Kieboom may have shown enough to warrant the backup job. And even if he didn’t, the Nats could try to bolster that position by acquiring another veteran this winter.

Complicating matters for Severino is that he’s now out of options. The Nats can no longer send him to Triple-A without first passing him through waivers. Given his struggles in 2018, he very well might clear waivers. But it’s also possible that the organization will decide it has seen enough now to know its one-time “Catcher of the Future” isn’t likely to ever become its “Catcher of the Present.”

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