Results tagged ‘ Jose Lobaton ’

Spring Training Preview, Part I: Catchers

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by Mike Feigen

Over each of the next five weeks, we’ll break down the entire Nationals roster as the team prepares to take the field in Viera, Fla., to get to work on defending their NL East Division title. Beginning this week with catchers, we will look at the stockpile of talent acquired and developed by President of Baseball Operations & General Manager Mike Rizzo, 2014 NL Manager of the Year Matt Williams and their respective staffs.

We kick things off this week with catchers, including the two likely members of the Opening Day roster, a reliable backup and a recent addition to the 40-man roster.

WILSON RAMOS

2014 Season Totals: .267/.299/.399, 93 wRC+, 4.7% BB rate, 15.8% K rate, 2.0 fWAR in 361 PA

2015 Steamer Projection: .269/.316/.438, 109 wRC+, 6.3% BB rate, 14.9% K rate, 3.0 fWAR in 428 PA

Division Series - San Francisco Giants v Washington Nationals - Game TwoWhen we last saw Wilson Ramos in October, he had just completed all 44 defensive innings behind the plate during the Nationals’ four-game NLDS run against the San Francisco Giants. The winner of the Tony Conigliaro Award for spirit, determination and courage also caught 87 games during the regular season, his most games caught since 2011.

At the plate, “The Buffalo” belted 11 home runs and added 47 runs batted in on the year, solid numbers despite recovering from a hamate bone fracture suffered on Opening Day against the Mets and a hamstring strain in mid-June. Once his hand strength returned, so did his bat; Ramos slashed .196/.254/.250 with no home runs in his first 15 games of the season, then hit .319/.350/.490 with nine long balls over his next 52 games through late August.

Ramos also benefited from Williams’ emphasis on defending the running game, posting a career high 38 percent caught stealing rate (18-of-48), after nabbing just 25 percent (18-of-71) of runners the previous two years combined. He also was credited with the first four pickoffs of his career.

Using Steamer projections (located on FanGraphs.com), the 27-year-old backstop is due for a strong season at the plate, in which he should draw a few more walks and harness some of his immense power. Should that occur, it would go a long ways toward the Nationals finding themselves back in the postseason for the third time in four years.

JOSE LOBATON

2014 Season Totals: .234/.287/.304, 66 wRC+, 6.5% BB rate, 26.5% K rate, 0.6 fWAR in 230 PA

2015 Steamer Proj.: .234/.303/.340, 81 wRC+, 8.6% BB rate, 23.1% K rate, 0.2 fWAR in 116 PA

San Francisco Giants v Washington NationalsIn his first season, Jose Lobaton’s influence on the Nationals pitching staff was undeniable. The pitch-framing savant helped the Nationals to a 38-20 record during his 58 starts, including an 11-0 mark when Doug Fister was on the mound.

Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays at the start of Spring Training, Lobaton got off to a bit of a slow start at the plate before finishing with a .305 batting average in August and September. He belted two home runs during the season, including a line drive shot into the bullpen to kick start an April 23 walk-off rally against the Los Angeles Angels.

Although Steamer’s projections have Lobaton’s plate appearances dipping significantly in 2015, the switch-hitter should have plenty of opportunities to spell Ramos to keep his fellow countryman’s legs fresh throughout the year.

SANDY LEON

2014 Season Totals: .156/.229/.219, 27 wRC+, 8.6% BB rate, 28.6% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 70 PA

2015 Steamer Proj.: .213/.282/.309, 66 wRC+, 8.3% BB rate, 20.1% K rate, 0.1 fWAR in 91 PA

Atlanta Braves v Washington NationalsLike Lobaton, Sandy Leon is a switch-hitting catcher with a strong defensive reputation. And while the 30-year-old Lobaton likely has the 25-year-old Leon blocked for the time being, the Nationals have used a No. 3 catcher on multiple occasions during the past three seasons.

Leon collected his first Major League home run on April 14 at cavernous Marlins Park in Miami, demonstrating good pop at the plate. He also has shown a tremendous eye throughout his Minor League career, including walk rates of 13.0 percent at Double-A in 2013 and 11.9 percent at Triple-A this past season.

Should he return to Syracuse this upcoming season, Leon could be tasked with the continuing development of an excellent Triple-A pitching staff featuring the likes of A.J. Cole, Taylor Jordan, Taylor Hill and Blake Treinen, depending on who makes the Major League club out of Spring Training.

DAN BUTLER

2014 Season Totals: .211/.250/.368, 67 wRC+, 5.0% BB rate, 25.0% K rate, 0.1 fWAR in 20 PA

2015 Steamer Proj.: .233/.299/.360, 83 wRC+, 7.7% BB rate, 20.8% K rate, 0.0 fWAR in 1 PA

Boston Red Sox Vs. Baltimore Orioles At Fenway ParkWith the departure of Minor League catcher Jhonatan Solano following the 2014 season, the Nationals and Red Sox completed a deal that sent left-handed pitcher Danny Rosenbaum to the Red Sox and 28-year-old catcher Dan Butler to the Nationals.

In addition to having solid defensive skills, Butler showed flashes of power during his time in Boston’s organization, clubbing 14 home runs in 84 games for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2013, while also posting a .350 on base percentage and a .479 slugging percentage.

Butler made his Major League debut at the tail end of the 2014 season, batting 4-for-19 at the plate with three doubles and two runs batted in for the Red Sox. While Steamer only projects him for one plate appearance in 2015, his projected rate stats are in line with both Lobaton and Leon, giving the Nationals flexibility should they need to use a third or fourth catcher.

Nationals place C Wilson Ramos on DL, recall C Sandy Leon

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by Amanda Comak

NEW YORK – Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to remove a fractured hamate bone from his left hand.

042112-171 wilson ramosRamos, who visited with hand specialist Dr. Kenneth Means on Tuesday, had the operation Wednesday and he will begin his rehab immediately. The team placed him on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 1, before Wednesday’s game, and recalled catcher Sandy Leon from Double-A Harrisburg.

The bulk of the Nationals’ catching responsibilities will now fall to Jose Lobaton, but his ability to handle the daily load of a starting role was a large reason why the team acquired him in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays at the start of Spring Training.

Lobaton caught 100 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013, leading their vaunted pitching staff to the fifth-lowest team ERA in the American League, while hitting .249 with 24 extra-base hits.

Leon, long thought to be one of the organization’s best defensive catchers, has proven more than capable in his brief Major League stints. In 2012, appearing in 12 games, Leon was 8-for-30 (.267) with a .389 on-base percentage.  Leon has thrown out 169 of 353 (48%) would-be basestealers the previous four minor-league seasons (2010-13).

The Nationals will no doubt miss Ramos, behind the plate as well as at it, and they’ll be patient as their bedrock catcher works to return from this injury strong and ready to return as their everyday backstop. In the meantime, the team will not be set adrift with the likes of Lobaton and Leon leading them behind the plate.

Get well soon, Wilson.

Must C Curtains: Wilson Ramos homers and drives in five runs after returning from the Disabled List in 2013.

Jose Lobaton talks trade, and how he earned the ‘Ice Cream Man’ nickname

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. — With his future uncertain, Jose Lobaton couldn’t sleep Thursday morning. Rumors swirled the night before that a trade may be in the works that would send him from Tampa to Washington. He tossed and turned, and told his wife, Nina, “I can’t sleep. I’m thinking too much. If I’m going to be part of the Nationals, or not, I just want to know. I just want to make sure I’m going somewhere.”

He’d finally drifted back off to sleep when the call came in from the Tampa Bay Rays. It was official, he was a Washington National.

Acquired on Thursday, along with left-hander Felipe Rivero and outfielder Drew Vettleson in exchange for right-hander Nathan Karns, Lobaton wasted no time. Before 1 p.m., the Nationals’ new catcher was inside the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium getting fitted with new red gear and catching up with countryman Wilson Ramos.

New Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton.

New Nationals catcher Jose Lobaton.

“I feel happy,” Lobaton said. “Because it’s a new team, and they’ve got faith in me. At the same time, I was with the Rays for, (almost) four years. I was feeling kind of sad (leaving) all the friends that I’ve got there.”

When Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo met with the local media to discuss the trade late Thursday afternoon, he praised Lobaton’s receiving and defensive skills.

Just how well-liked and respected was Lobaton among the Rays’ vaunted pitching staff? The first call he got after news of the trade spread was from former American League Cy Young winner David Price. A picture of a sad Rays pitching staff followed via text.

“I’m going to miss you,” Price told Lobaton.

But by midday on Thursday, Lobaton was already refocusing on his new team. He chatted with Ramos about his new teammates and got a quick scouting report on the new pitching staff — led by Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Doug Fister — that he’ll be charged with helping to reach its exceptional potential.

“When you’ve got a staff like that, oof, it’s unbelievable,” Lobaton said. “It made me feel better that the team has faith in me, that you can handle those guys. It’s a long Spring Training, and we’ve got time to get ready and be in that place that I want to be with them. That’s all I need.

Jose Lobaton earned the nickname "Ice Cream Man" while with the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo via @RaysBaseball)

Jose Lobaton earned the nickname “Ice Cream Man” while with the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo via @RaysBaseball)

“I’m the kind of catcher, I like to talk to the pitcher. Whatever they want. I’m not the kind of catcher who is like, ‘I want something, I’m going to call it.’ I want to do whatever they want. He’s got the ball… Communication, we worked a lot with the Rays on that. That’s what I like to do: try to be on the same page. Whatever they want. If they want the glove low, I’ll put it low. ‘Just let me know’ – that’s all I say to the pitchers: ‘Whatever you want, I’m going to do my best.'”

Lobaton also explained how he got the nickname “Ice Cream Man” while with the Rays. And it’s actually quite a hilarious story, so we’ll just let him tell it:

“I like ice cream,” Lobaton said. “Not in the way that, I love it and I’m going to get ice cream every day or anything, but I really like it. (Before a game in 2012), I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to get ice cream.’ Luke Scott saw me and said, ‘I want you to stay in baseball. If you want to stay in baseball, you can’t get ice cream every day.’ I was like, ‘Why not?’ He said, ‘That’s not good for you. You’re going to get fat.’ I was like, ‘That’s true.’

“(But) in two hours, I was getting another ice cream. After that, (Scott) put in a lot of (signs): ‘Lobaton can’t be here.’ ‘Lobaton is not allowed to get ice cream.’ He said, ‘I’m going to help you.’ After that, it was no ice cream for me. And then we’re playing in Baltimore. He said, ‘This is a good park to hit your first homer.’ I had no homers in the big leagues at that moment. I’m like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’

Jose Lobaton tweeted a picture of his first ice cream purchase as a National on Thursday night. (Photo via @JLobaton21)

Jose Lobaton tweeted a picture of his first ice cream purchase as a National on Thursday night. (Photo via @JLobaton21)

“In the second or third at-bat, I hit a homer. Before that at-bat, he said, ‘If you hit a homer, you’re going to get free ice cream.’ I was like, ‘Okay, whatever you say.’ I hit the homer. When I was sitting in the dugout, he came up the tunnel and gave me the ice cream, and it was on TV so everybody asked me. I hit another homer, they gave me more ice cream.

“(In 2013), I kept hitting homers, and they gave me ice cream. In one series, I hit a triple and a homer. After the last game – the homer – we were ready to fly somewhere. On the plane, it was Joe Maddon. He came and gave (me) a four-gallon (bucket of) ice cream. After that everybody was calling me the Ice Cream Man.”

So, the question had to be asked, what is his favorite ice cream?

“Coconut,” Lobaton said.

“Now maybe I’m going to get a new nickname here,” he added, smiling. “I’m okay with whatever they want to call me.” 

Nationals acquire catcher Jose Lobaton, LHP Felipe Rivero and OF Drew Vettleson from Tampa Bay

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by Amanda Comak

VIERA, Fla. – The Washington Nationals shored up their catching corps and added more talent to the upper levels of their Minor League system on Thursday, acquiring catcher Jose Lobaton, left-hander Felipe Rivero and outfielder Drew Vettleson from the Tampa Bay Rays.

In exchange, the Nationals sent right-handed starter Nathan Karns to the Rays. To clear space for Rivero on the team’s 40-man roster, right-hander Erik Davis was placed on the 60-day disabled list with a right elbow sprain.

Lobaton, 29, hit .249 with a .320 on-base percentage and .394 slugging percentage in 311 plate appearances with the Rays in 2013. Splitting time with veteran Jose Molina, Lobaton — who is considered an above-average defensive receiver — helped guide the vaunted Tampa Bay pitching staff to the fifth-lowest team ERA in the American League.

The Venezuela native joins countrymen Wilson Ramos and Sandy Leon, along with Jhonatan Solano, as catchers on the Nationals’ 40-man roster and gives Manager Matt Williams a strong layer of depth behind Ramos.

He became an October hero in 2013, crushing a walk-off home run for the Rays off Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara in Game 3 of the American League Division Series.

Rivero, 22, went 9-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 25 games/23 starts for Charlotte of the Florida State League in 2013. Rated by FanGraphs.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s organization, Rivero’s fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph. His nine wins paced Single-A Charlotte, as did his 127.0 innings pitched.

He participated in the 2012 XM All-Star Futures Game in Kansas City and earned Midwest League mid-season All-Star honors while with Single-A Bowling Green.  Rivero was signed by the Rays on July 30, 2008 and is a native of San Felipe, Venezuela.

Vettleson, originally selected by the Rays in the first round (42nd overall) of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Central Kitsap (WA) High School, was ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Rays’ organization entering the 2014 season by Keith Law from ESPN.com.

The 22-year old spent the 2013 season with Single-A Charlotte, hitting .274 with 29 doubles, six triples, four home runs, 62 RBI and 50 runs scored.  During the 2012 campaign in which he played 132 games for Single-A Bowling Green, Vettleson set a Bowling Green franchise record with 139 hits and his 15 home runs and 69 RBI were both in the top five among Rays minor leaguers.  In two of his first three professional seasons, Vettleson also stole at least 20 bases.

Following the 2012 season, he was named an MiLB.com Organization All-Star, a Midwest League All-Star and Bowling Green’s Most Valuable Player.

Vettleson, a native of Bremerton, Washington, was cited by Baseball America as being the Best Pure Hitter among high school talents entering the 2010 Draft.

Karns, 26, was the Nationals 2012 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and made three starts for the Nationals in 2013.

In 54 Minor League starts, from the Gulf Coast League up through Double-A Harrisburg, Karns has a career Minor League ERA of 2.66. The hard-throwing right-hander was selected in the 12th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Texas Tech University.

Davis, 27, went 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 games with the Nationals last season, his first in which he appeared in the Major Leagues.

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