Yan Gomes was the best catcher in the American League in 2014. He was the best catcher in the American League during the second half of 2013 too, after taking over the job midseason.
A sloppy slide by Detroit's Rajai Davis during the fifth game of this season injured Yan Gomes' right knee, causing him to miss six week, and upon his return to the lineup in late May, Gomes struggled for a while. On June 29 Gomes had his first 3-hit game of the season, and he had a good final couple weeks leading into the All-Star break, with as many extra0base hits in those 11 games as he'd had all season to that point.
Since the break, Gomes has been even better. In fact, he's gotten back to being the AL's best backstop.
During the second half, Gomes is batting .273/.337/.494, which is good for a wRC+ of 129, which easily leads all American League catchers. During this last month, Gomes hasn't just gotten back to being as good a hitter as he was before, he's been a bit better. His power numbers and walk rate have been higher, while his strikeout rate has been lower. Add in the fact that he's made only 2 errors all season, add in his above average defense (both in regards to stopping the other team's running game, and in terms of fielding balls in play), and you've got an elite player.
During the break, Dave Cameron at FanGraphs ranked Gomes among the top 50 players in baseball in terms of trade value, and he (Cameron) caught hell for it from readers who looked at Yan's batting line at that time. A month later, Dave can smile, knowing he was right not to overreact to six rough weeks following a return from the DL.
Gomes is excellent, but he's paid like a backup. He signed an extension last year that pays him just $1 million this season, and guarantees him a little less than $21 million for the fours seasons after this one. You could triple those numbers and Gomes would still be a great deal for any team.
Gomes is one of my favorite players to watch. He runs hard out of the box on contact, turning more singles into doubles than most catchers; he gets down to block pitches, which allows the pitching staff to throw pitches they might otherwise have confidence in; he is incredibly quick when it comes to getting out of his crouch, and he has a tremendous arm, making him one of the toughest catchers in baseball to run on.
Here's Yan in action Tuesday night:
As I said, he' gets out of his crouch in a hurry. And look at that throw, a bullet that gets to Ramirez right at the bag. Brett Gardner, who has a success rate of over 80% on stolen base attempts in his career, got a good jump, but Gomes erased him all the same.
Gomes isn't going to get his overall numbers for this season back up to where they were in 2013 and 2014, the injury and working his way back cost him too much productive time for that. Look at the last month though, and you can believe Yan is back. Then take a minute to think about that dirt cheap contract he's signed to. Good players signed to under-market deals are the key to a small market team being able to contend for an extended period of time. Yan Gomes is just one such player the Indians have right now who fits that description.
For more than two years now, he's been the AL's best catcher. The knee injury put him on hiatus for a time, but he's back.
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