Then & Now: Yan Gomes

Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Baseball Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a player’s past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the player’s future.

Versatility (noun) — having a wide variety of skills.

Power hitting, speed, slick fielding — all three skills can play a large part in determining the chances of success for a Major League baseball player.

But what about a player who may not be great in any one particular area, but is good in a number of areas? Recent Indians acquisition Yan Gomes seems to fall into that category.

The versatile Gomes was acquired by the Cleveland Indians along with Mike Aviles in early November when the Tribe sent Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Gomes is the first Brazilian-born player to reach the Major Leagues. While his primary position is catcher, Gomes has also played first base, third base, left field and designated hitter in either the major or minor leagues.

Versatility like this could serve the 25-year-old well. For instance, a typical backup catcher is just that — a backup. However, Gomes could serve that role, but his versatility allows him to stay in a lineup if he were to ever get hot at the plate.

However, before any of that can happen, Gomes must first make the Major League roster, which he is currently attempting to do in Spring Training. It may be a long shot for Gomes to make the team out of Spring Training, but his future is bright, and it should not be long before the right-handed hitter finds himself in Cleveland.

Then:

Gomes was originally drafted in the 39th round of the 2008 Draft by the Boston Red Sox. However, he did not sign that season, so he was then drafted the following season out of Barry University in the 10th round by the Blue Jays.

It did not take long for Gomes to make his professional debut as he spent four games with Toronto’s rookie ball club before heading to Single-A Auburn of the New York-Penn League. Gomes spent 60 games there to end the 2009 season, and his overall line was quite impressive.

Gomes compiled a .296/.363/.444 line to go along with two home runs and 44 RBI. Gomes also impressed behind the plate and threw out 38 percent of would-be base stealers that season.

Gomes progressed to the Midwest League for seven games in 2010 before being promoted to High-A Dunedin where he would spend the rest of the season. Between the two affiliates, Gomes compiled a .270/.309/.471 line. It was also the first time that he displayed some power potential in his career as he socked 23 doubles and nine home runs to go along with 48 RBI.

His caught-stealing percentage stayed relatively consistent that season at 30 percent, but not everything was perfect. For example, plate discipline seemed to be a problem for Gomes as he walked just 12 times while striking out 75 times.

Nonetheless, problems like that are often overlooked when a team has a young, developing offensive catcher on its hands, so Gomes was still promoted to Double-A New Hampshire the following season.  Gomes’ caught-stealing percentage remained consistent at 33 percent, but his time at the position also decreased that season as he played first base in 20 games.

His offensive numbers also took a bit of a hit as the right-handed hitter compiled a .250/.317/.464 line in 79 games. Regardless, the Blue Jays still decided to promote Gomes to the Triple-A level for four games to conclude the season.

Now:

Gomes started the 2012 season at Triple-A Las Vegas, which is exactly where he ended the 2011 season. Only this time, the results were much more favorable.

It’s hard to say exactly what happened here. Perhaps it was happenstance? Maybe it was luck? Or maybe just everything started to come together for Gomes because the 2012 season was certainly unlike any other season in Gomes’ career.

For the majority of his minor league career, Gomes was an average to an above-average offensive player. However, in 2012, Gomes played like an elite offensive player. In 79 games, Gomes compiled a .328/.380/.557 line with 29 doubles, 13 home runs and 59 RBI at the highest level of the minor leagues.

However, Gomes’ time at catcher had also significantly decreased as he played only 35 games at catcher and spent more time at the infield corners. Throughout the season, the Blue Jays continually brought Gomes up to the Major League roster where his overall line was .204/.264.,367 with four home runs in 43 games. The numbers leave a lot to be desired, but it’s hard to fault Gomes too much, especially when you consider that he was bouncing back-and-forth between Triple-A Las Vegas and Toronto.

Gomes’ stint in Toronto officially ended on Nov. 2 last year when the Indians shipped Rogers to the Blue Jays to acquire Gomes and Aviles.

Gomes is currently in Spring Training with the Indians where he is competing for a chance to supplant the incumbentLou Marson as the Tribe’s backup catcher. It may be a long shot, but the results so far have been quite nice.

In three games and five at-bats this spring, Gomes has gone 2-for-5 with a double, a home run and five RBI. Not too shabby for five at-bats, eh?

Future:

While it may be unlikely that Gomes makes the Indians out of Spring Training, he is most certainly on the team’s radar and could become an option later in the year.

His offensive numbers are impressive, but fans should remember that he spent a lot of last season playing one of the infield corner spots. Some fine-tuning behind the plate could serve him well, which is why he will likely be sent to Triple-A Columbus to handle the catching duties.

Gomes can, however, force the Indians’ hand if he continues to rake at the Triple-A level. Offensive catchers remain a rarity in Major League Baseball, and the Indians have been lucky enough to find themselves one in Carlos Santana. But what if Gomes continues to progress in his offensive development? It seems as if the Tribe would then have a very potent offensive duo behind the plate.

If Spring Training offers any indication, that scenario could be closer than we think.

Previous Then & Now profiles:

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