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


  • DaveR says:

    Gomes, Aviles, Raburn, has to be one of the best benches in the AL this year. Kudos to Francona for using these guys the right way. And kudos to the guys for coming through when called upon. Now how about those starting position players…

  • Gvl Steve says:

    This article was well thought out but surprisingly negative given the feel-good story Gomes has been and his good play on a mediocre offensive club. BABIP is a unique batting statistic in that a high number is used against the player to suggest that his production results more from luck than skill. However, Gomes hits the ball very hard. Balls that are hit hard find gaps in the defense and drop in for hits more often than weakly hit balls. I haven’t seen a lot of infield hits, bloops and dribblers by Gomes that would explain away his high batting average as mere luck. What I have been seeing are line drives that leave dents in the outfield wall, or go over it. Is Gomes going to hit .315 forever? Probably not. Pitchers will adjust to his hot zones and stay away from them. But a career minor league slash line of 287/345/484 is pretty solid, especially for a catcher, and catchers are notoriously late bloomers because their position is so demanding. Throw in the fact that Gomes is no longer being asked to play all over the diamond like he did for Toronto and is getting regular, but managed, playing time similar to Raburn, and you have a recipe for success. I would not be so quick to dismiss his good play as an outlier just yet.

    • nikki says:

      This! Totally agree!

    • Joseph Werner says:

      I used this example elsewhere: Prorating his value thus far for 600 PA, over the course of a full season Gomes would be worth about 8.2 fWAR. That total would have exceeded all but Mike Trout’s value last season.

      Gomes’ is certainly not that good.

      Once his numbers normalize, I think he’s going to be an average major league regular (1.5 to 2.5 wins). That would still place him among the top 10 to 15 catchers in the league.

  • Peter says:

    Defensively, he is a big step up from Santana and offensively, well there is no comparison right now. I’m just going to enjoy the ride while it lasts. I’d have him hitting cleanup, too. What other option is there right now?

    • Swift says:

      Heck, I would have just about anyone other than Cabrera bat clean-up now. Though if I seriously had to make the decision, I would probably be going with Michael Brantley among the available options.

      But yes, I’m mostly just enjoying the Gomes ride at the moment. The future will be whatever it is.

      By the way, his English is excellent. I wonder – what does he use on the mound with Spanish speaking pitchers?

      • Kevin Price says:

        Brazil is largely a Portuguese speaking country, so likely he uses English with the Spanish speaking pitchers.

        • Sean Porter says:

          I also believe that while Gomes was born in Brazil, his came to the U.S. when Yan was relatively young.

          And yes, he does need to walk a bit more, but the guy has a very quick, very compact swing that he seems to have no problem duplicating. His throw-out rate is amazing, but not by luck, he gets rid of the ball very quickly and has what guys on ‘Baseball Tonight’ described as a “Johnny Bench” arm.

          Maybe I’m a homer, but I’m buying the Yan Gomes hype. I was thinking the other night about how the Indians need to get lucky, to strike gold almost accidentally… (Think Red Sox and part-time OF David Ortiz from Minnesota)

          I think Gomes could be that guy, the guy that seemingly comes out of nowhere and becomes a very good player.

  • Gvl Steve says:

    Joseph, an 8.2 fWAR would be insane, but I give Terry a lot of credit for how he has used Gomes and Raburn this year in a way that maximizes their production per plate appearance. Both of them have very gaudy numbers in terms of OBA and SLG%. Neither would maintain that level if asked to play 155 games, but at a 90-100 game pace it is working wonders. Those two have really masked the deficiencies of the starting lineup.

    • Joseph Werner says:

      I agree with you. A manager needs to be a leader and know how to put players in the right spots to succeed. And Francona has done that. But I think the overall offense tends to get overlooked.

      According to Weighted Runs Created Plus, an all-encompassing offensive stat adjusted for league and ballpark, the Indians have the sixth best offense in the baseball this year.

  • Jason Jeffrey Jackson says:

    DaveR, you forgot 1 guy in your top AL bench’ it should read Gomes, Aviles, Raburn and Giambi (yes, Jason Giambi has been Mr. Clutch this year off the pine).