Washington Promotes Defensive Whiz Sandy Leon

With the loss of yet another baseball player to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) comes a fresh opportunity for a young, inexperienced prospect. The Washington Nationals organization has replaced starting catcher Wilson Ramos with part-timer Jesus Flores and called up rookie Sandy Leon to serve as the new backup.

Leon is known as a glove-first catcher but his bat began to show signs of improvement at high-A ball in 2011 and that continued over into 2012 with his assignment to double-A. At the time of his promotion Leon was hitting .319/.356/.457 in 27 games. Despite his improvements with the stick he’s not as good as those numbers suggest, though, and the 130 wRC+ is the result of a small sample size. He posted a wRC+ of 89 in 2011. Leon is a switch-hitter and he offers more potential while swinging from the left side.

There is not much that Leon, 23, doesn’t do on defense. He is a great receiver, he calls a solid game and he isn’t afraid to get down and block pitches. The young catcher has an average arm in terms of strength but it’s accurate and he does a nice job of controlling the running game. With one of the strongest pitching staffs in baseball, Leon is exactly what the club needs in a backup catcher and he’s an excellent complement to Flores.

Leon signed with Washington out of Venezuala in 2007. He was actually scouted by two very savvy baseball minds in now-GM Mike Rizzo and Dana Brown, who is currently Special Assistant to the GM in Toronto. Although he will likely never be an impact player with the bat, Leon has a chance to be a valuable bench player for the Washington Nationals.

Sandy Leon isn’t the only intriguing catching prospect in the Nationals system, even after the off-season trade of Derek Norris, which helped the club acquire left-handed starter Gio Gonzalez. David Freitas, currently playing in high-A ball, is more of an offensive-minded catcher than Leon but he can hold his own on defense and should eventually become an average big league backstop. On offense he shows a good eye, can hit for a decent average and has good gap power. Freitas, 23, is currently hitting .300/.390/.478 in 25 games. He was originally a 15th round draft pick out of the University of Hawaii in 2010.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

9 Responses to “Washington Promotes Defensive Whiz Sandy Leon”

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  1. Mario Mendoza of commenters says:

    With Flores’ career numbers being so… inconclusive, do we have any scouts’ take on him?

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  2. Will says:

    Injuries have absolutely destroyed the Nationals this season. Ramos is the 11th player to go on the DL this season. ELEVENTH.

    Storen will miss about 80 games.
    Morse will miss at least 60 games.
    Werth will miss at least 80 games.
    Zimmerman missed 13 games.
    LaRoche missed 5 games.
    Wang will miss about 50 games.
    Lidge will miss about 30 games.
    Ramos will miss 130 games.
    Ankiel missed 10 games.
    Cole Kimball and Chris Marrero are both on the 60 day DL and not expected back soon.

    That’s over 500 games lost to injury, and the season isn’t even a quarter of the way through yet!

    Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, top prospect Anthony Rendon was injured in his second game in the minors, and hasn’t played since. #3 prospect, Brian Goodwin, made it FIVE games into the season before getting injured, and hasn’t played since.

    It’s a miracle the Nationals are even competitive (much less 21-13) at this point.

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  3. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    This is typical Nats luck. Every time someone becomes good they become fragile and break.

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  4. nobleisthyname says:

    And now Leon is down… When will it end??

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    • Well-Beered Englishman says:

      I feel really bad for the poor kid. 60 day DL already. That may have been his only major league game.

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    • Will says:

      And apparently heading straight to the 60 day DL. Add another 60 games to my previous list, and we’re approaching 600 games lost to injury already!

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      • NatsFan73 says:

        I’m thinking the 60-day DL is just gamesmanship. The injury isn’t THAT bad. Their next backup catcher (Maldonado) isn’t on the 40-man yet, so they need to make room. It’s either the 60-day DL for Leon or cut someone form the 40-man and risk losing them on waivers to another team.

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    • Shaun catron says:

      Looks like he got Posey’d.

      Best case scenario: high ankle sprain
      Worst case scenario: ???

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