Forgettable. Non-prospect. Quad-A player. Even after coming off of his best professional season to date, Yan Gomes, who batted .328/.380/.557 in the hitter-friendly confines of Las Vegas, looked like the forgettable part in a trade that barely made ripples.
He was 25-years-old at the time, spent time at four positions, and was coming off of a disappointing 43-game showing during his big league debut (.204/.364/.367). Now, though, the only Brazilian-born player in the major leagues is taken Cleveland by storm.
Among catchers with 190+ plate appearances, Gomes ranks eighth in fWAR (2.8), first in Weighted Runs Created Plus, third in Isolated Power, and has thrown out a whopping 52% of would-be base stealers. No longer forgettable, Gomes has become a cult hero with the local faithful.
But who, exactly, is Yan Gomes? And is he really this good?
Gomes, who was drafted by the Red Sox in the 39th round in 2008 and again in the 10th a year later by Toronto, is a career .287/.345/.484 minor league hitter. He always showed solid-average or better pop – .197 ISO – but outside of his production in the 51s bandbox of a home stadium he posted back-to-back seasons of uninspiring production.
As a 22-year-old in high Class A, Gomes hit .275/.312/.489. And while his total offensive production was 28% better than the league average, he rarely walked (3.6% BB-rate) and benefited greatly from an inflated batting average on balls in play (.342).
He followed that up by hitting .250/.317/.464 the next season in Class AA, where his production dropped to just 11% above the Eastern League average as his BABIP declined precipitously.
He finally had a breakout year in 2013 – like so many mid 20s players in the PCL tend to do. He hit .328/.380/.557 and was a career best 40% better than the average offense. Of course, this comes with the crater-sized caveat of a .392 BABIP. But he showed the ability to maintain an average-ish walk rate and dramatically cut his strikeout rate.
The pattern is pretty obvious.
Every time Gomes is the beneficiary of high BABIP (2009, 2010, and 2012) his production spikes – to unsustainable levels. And this season with the Tribe it stands at .343, 47 points above the league average and the sixth highest mark at the position.
Sure, higher than normal BABIPs can be a proven skill in the big leagues, but not at this level for a 26-year-old catcher with 302 career plate appearances. (Note: minor league BABIPs are always inflated when compared to big league averages and Gomes’ BABIP was .246 at the MLB level in 2012.)
So, no, Cleveland fans, Yan Gomes is not this good. Not even close.
Couple that with the fact that he’s walked in just 5.0% of his career 302 plate appearances and he threw out 30% of would-be base stealers in the his minor league career; and there’s a lot of volatility in his overall numbers. Once everything begins to normalize, Gomes should fall into the 1.5- to 2.5-win player, essentially making his a league average regular. Something that is still quite valuable for the Indians.
For more analysis check out Joe’s site: ProspectDigest