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Yan Gomes Gets His Shot in Toronto

The Toronto Blue Jays made the shocking decision today to demote veteran first baseman Adam Lind to triple-A. In his place the organization added catcher/infielder Yan Gomes to the 40-man roster and promoted him from Las Vegas.

Make no mistake about it, the rookie will not replace Lind in the lineup. Despite outstanding surface numbers at triple-A, the Brazil native has the ceiling of a platoon/part-time player. However, I’ve softened my stance on him since the spring when I wrote about not reading too much into his small-sample numbers. After posting decent numbers at the double-A level in 2011, Gomes followed that up with solid results in the Arizona Fall League in late 2011 and then even better numbers at triple-A this year. Defensively in the minors he’s played 149 games at catcher, 29 at first base and 10 at the hot corner – grading as average-at-best at each.

His numbers at triple-A are definitely aided by the potent hitter’s environment in Las Vegas and the rest of the Pacific Coast League. He was hitting .359 with 17 extra base hits, including five homers, at the time of his promotion. His continued aggressive approach led to just six walks in 131 at-bats, good for a walk rate of 4.3% (He posted walk rates of 3.6% in high-A in ’10 but was up to 8.1% in ’11). Gomes, 24, will also need to adjust his two-strike approach at the big league level; he was hitting .595 while a head in the count at triple-A but that number plummeted to .186 while behind in the count.

A teammate of J.P. Arencibia‘s at the University of Tennessee, Gomes and Toronto’s incumbent starting catcher are friendly so that will help him fit into the clubhouse – which some observers have likened to a frat house. Gomes fits a number of club needs. He’ll serve as the third string catcher behind Arencibia and Jeff Mathis. He’ll be a better backup to third baseman Brett Lawrie than the light-hitting Omar Vizquel was and he could occasionally fill in for the equally versatile Edwin Encarnacion, who appears to be the new everyday first baseman.

Although I suggest tempering enthusiasm for Gomes’ promotion it’s not hard to envision him playing an important role on the Jays’ 25-man roster. This move also suggests that Toronto really is taking the 2012 seriously and taking a legitimate stab at competing for the wild card slots. They realized that Lind was unfortunately costing the club runs – and possibly wins. Gomes, on the other hand, should be given a legitimate shot to contribute to the team’s success going forward – or until the organization can cash in on some of its young arms, such as low-A starter Noah Syndergaard, in an effort to acquire a potent veteran bat for the middle of the lineup. An eventual promotion of Vladimir Guerrero, who’s working out in extended spring training, is another possibility.

Regardless of what happens going forward, Gomes deserves some recogniztion for working hard to develop himself into a legitimate big leaguer after being the 310th player selected (10th round) in the 2009 amateur draft and the first Brazilan born player in the majors.