After a two-month trial run as the Indians' primary backstop in 2013, Yan Gomes has gotten the green light for full-time duty behind the plate in 2014. Considered by many to be a better defensive catcher than his predecessor, Carlos Santana, the question that is pressing for fantasy owners is: What will Gomes bring to the table offensively? Let's check under the hood and find out:
Yan Gomes (Sao Paulo, Brazil) is a 26-year old right-handed hitter who was drafted in the 10th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009 and was traded to the Indians along with utilityman Mike Aviles for Esmil Rogers in 2012. He has compiled a .287/.345/.484 slash line with an almost 3:1 K/BB ratio in over 1200 PAs (5 seasons) in the minors. In 2012 he was ranked as the Indians' 27th best prospect by Baseball America, and at the same time had his best year as a minor leaguer, slashing a .328/.380/.557 line with 13HR and 29 doubles in the hitter-friendly PCL.
In the majors, thus far, he has compiled a decent .271/.324/.453 line in a mere 433 PAs, hitting 11 HRs last year, getting his K-rate down to 20% from 28% in 2012, and flashing slightly above-average wOBA (.326) and wRC+ (108).
His batted ball data suggest a more-or-less average player (as does his plate discipline data), and it's possible that just a small regression in his pop-up rate will help his LD% (17.8%) creep up to league average (about 20%). He has an above-average HR/FB rate so far and his power has translated at the MLB level as well (career .182 ISO). His batted ball distance comes in at #118 overall, just a few ticks behind Wilin Rosario-and everyone seems to like his power output all right.
However, this is a small sample size so there's no telling what Gomes will do over the course of a season. His .342 BABIP is probably not sustainable over an entire year so expect the batting average to sit more comfortably around .260 or so as BABIP regression comes into play. He strikes out too much (never been below 21%), and he walks too little (career 5.5%) to be able to help in the OBP department. While the ISO, batted ball distance, and HR/FB numbers are nice, there are two things working against him regarding his power:
1. He's a dead pull hitter who likes the ball high and inside (vs. LHP), or low and inside (vs. RHP). All but two of his HRs went to left field last year. As the book gets around on this guy it'll be easy to pound him with stuff outside, which he'll probably offer at because of his below-average O-Swing rate of 36%, and
2. Progressive Field is generally known as a hitter's ballpark, but last year it played the 2nd toughest in the league by giving up HRs to right handers (only Pittsburgh played tougher).
Considering he really doesn't steal bases, will probably hit at or near the bottom of the order, and knowing that Carlos Santana is still able to catch if needed (which could cut into his ABs), I don't see much more than replacement level at catcher this year for Yan Gomes, despite his defensive prowess behind the dish. I wouldn't overpay for Gomes' services based on a nice show in the 2nd half of the season. I agree with ZiPS, more or less, and see a final line of .260/.310/.430 with 10-12 HR, 45 runs, and 45 RBI. For me Yan is more Ya(w)n than anything in 2014.
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