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.