There were question marks in the air during spring training over who the Nationals' backup catcher would be. The team answered that question by sending Pedro Severino to Triple-A and choosing Miguel Montero to back up Matt Wieters on opening day.
However, the Nationals caught the injury bug, Wieters went on the DL, and Severino was quickly recalled. Not only that, but Montero eventually went on paternity leave, and throughout that time, Severino was the primary starter. And, boy, has he impressed.
Severino has made the most of this opportunity he's been given, primarily on the offensive side of the plate. In seven games, he's slashed .368/.520/.424, and his OPS is .994. Not to mention his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .467, which isn't too shabby. He's gotten seven hits in 19 at-bats, and two of those hits have been doubles. He has three RBIs, four walks and two runs scored. He's also stolen a base, but even pitchers are doing that these days.
Additionally, he's looked good behind the plate, as well. To my eye, he's been handling the veteran pitching staff, which includes two top three Cy Young finishers, rather well. He's athletic and can move quickly, which is a important tool for a catcher. At times, he's had some trouble corralling the ball. But for the most part, he's kept the ball in front of him, and he's improved just over the course of this week. I'm not giving him the Gold Glove or anything, but his management of the game has looked good to me, and he can only improve.
It's a bit of a small sample size, and he has yet to show a lot of power off the bat, but the numbers look stellar, especially if he keeps up this pace or even close to it. And he looks the part. In my opinion, Severino should stay as the Nats' permanent backup catcher even after everyone is healthy again.
Montero was given the job at the beginning of the year because he's a veteran player, he's proven he can handle a high-caliber pitching staff and he's played for Davey Martinez before, along with the contract situation that played in his favor. But his play has declined over the past few years. Since 2015, he's hit .248, .216, and .216. His totals in hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs have all steadily declined over the past three years. In four games this season, he has failed to record a hit and has only reached base twice, via a walk both times. Admittedly, that's not a lot of plate appearances to work with, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
It's also well-known that Montero does not have the best arm. In fact, last year the Nats were the very team to exploit that, and even cost him his job because of it. Trea Turner and friends had so much fun ripping bags left and right off him and Jake Arrieta with the Cubs last season that Montero mouthed off against his pitching staff and was subsequently released. Teammates have said that that is not the type of person Montero is, but it doesn't make me have faith in him.
Montero is in the latter stages of his career. Severino is just beginning. While the Nats could maybe get the production out of Montero that he's had in the past, the likelihood is they're not going to get a lot. Severino, on the other hand, has the potential to give the Nats so much more. He's fast, he's athletic and he looks good behind the plate. The defense and catching will be refined, especially as he gets more time with the pitching staff. The offense is the X-factor, and if the early-season trend holds, it looks like Severino is going to deliver. And that should be all the reason the Nats need to stick with him for the long haul.
Liz Barr blogs about the Nationals for The Nats Blog. Follow her on Twitter: @RaiseTheBarr1. Her opinions on the Nationals will appear here as part of MASNsports.com's initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.