Cleveland Indians Roundtable: Debating the starting catcher position

(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
(Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The staff of Believeland Ball got together to talk about who should be the starting catcher for the Cleveland Indians moving forward.

The Cleveland Indians have gotten some solid production out of a veteran catcher in 2018, but some fans want to see the organization’s top prospect become the focal point behind the plate.

Our staff got together to discuss whether Yan Gomes or Francisco Mejia should be the starter for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately, Roberto Perez didn’t make the cut.

Phil Gasser

For me, this is pretty simple. The only answer that makes any sense at all is Yan Gomes. When looking at the two catchers on the roster right now, there is no comparison between Roberto Perez and Yan. At this point, that’s like comparing the Patriots to my seventh grade football team (we were not very good).

Everyone knows that the Tribe offense has been horrible at times and dominant at others but Gomes has been fairly consistent, unlike what we saw last year. I’m not gonna sit here and act like Gomes has been anything near what he was in 2014 when he won the Silver Slugger, people forget he did that, but he has been more consistent and less of liability than he was in an injury-plagued 2016 and a below average 2017.

Despite having a career worst 25 percent caught stealing percentage, Yan is still the clear choice behind the dish. That leaves the big question of what to do with the second man. I’ll never forget what Perez did for this team in the 2016 playoffs. It was a season of miracles and he was one of them but he has to go.

Even when he wasn’t hitting in the past, you could count on him behind the plate. Now, he is a liability there as well (a 13 percent CS). The smart choice is to send Perez down and bring up Mejia. Francisco Mejia has never been given a real shot to show what he can do at the big league level. At only 22, Mejia can show off the skills that have made him the best player in the Indians far system since Frankie was called up in 2015.

The way I look at it, this team needs to do something huge to be a real threat in October and giving Mejia a chance to show his skills could be the first major step to pulling off a massive July trade (*cough* Machado *cough*).

Brandon Kring

At this point in the season, it is clear to me who should start at catcher for the majority of the Indians games. That catcher’s name is Yan Gomes.

Yan Gomes is the best defensive catcher on the roster. There is no one better at calling a game for his pitcher and stealing on him is ill-advised. His defensive performance this year has been off some but his ability still outweighs any on the roster.

Yan has had a bad last couple years offensively but he has turned it up some this season. His current slash line of .251/.311/.464 is his best line since his Silver Slugger year in 2014. He seems to be seeing the ball well and doing a much better job being selective.

His recent tear has solidified my thinking on him being the starter moving forward. Roberto Perez is not having a good year but he only plays once every few days.

Eric Haase and Francisco Mejia are young and would both do well to continue playing a lot in Columbus rather than come up and play every few days to replace Perez. Neither should be starting every day over Gomes either.

Yan Gomes has turned it up a notch in 2018 and reclaimed his spot as undoubted starting catcher. Until Mejia is ready to be the everyday guy, Gomes will be behind the plate in Cleveland at least through 2019, possibly 2021 if both of his team options are used.

Drew Zubin

The Indians have bounced between Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes as catcher this year. Both guys have their strengths and weaknesses, but I believe Gomes has earned the right to be the full-time starter. Gomes has regained his swing from a few seasons ago and has produced on offense.

This season he has batted very well against lefties, with a .327 batting average. He’s even shown a bit of the power stroke with nine home runs. Perez never really was a huge offensive threat, but this season has been tougher than past. He’s only hitting .155 and has struck out in 43 percent of his at-bats.

Defensively, Gomes has been much better than Perez this season. Neither Perez or Gomes has been as great as they were the last few seasons controlling the run game, but Perez has been downright abysmal. He’s thrown out two of the 15 steal attempts. By comparison Gomes has thrown out seven of the 28 attempts. Both guys are under the league average of 27 percent.

My hope is that Tito gives Gomes the full-time nod. I think Gomes will improve on defense, history shows that he should, and offensively he bring much more to the table than Perez.

Paul Roth

There’s really only three options for the starting catcher spot: Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez and Francisco Mejia.

With that being said, I believe the clear-cut choice to get the starting spot is Yan Gomes. Gomes has the most to offer of the three and is the most complete player of the three at the moment.

Gomes has the most experience of the three and is the best hitter of the bunch as of now, although Mejia will almost certainly be the better hitter in the future.

Perez, while solid defensively, just does not have the offensive production to make a serious run at the starting role. He has hovered above and below the Mendoza line his entire career with a career best average of only .228 and that was three years ago.

While he has looked terrible at the plate ever since winning an AL Silver Slugger award four years ago, Gomes has been much approved at the plate this year and his defensive production has been on par or better than Perez’s.

Gomes also has the edge on Mejia who doesn’t yet seem ready to make the jump to the majors based on his performance in limited action. Also, Mejia doesn’t have the defensive production to make a run at the starting spot and will most likely switch positions as he has been seeing time in the outfield in the minors.

Carson Ferrell

Obviously Yan Gomes is clear-cut starter. I don’t think anyone will question that. I will question how long he will stay the everyday starter. Gomes is quietly acting as one of the better hitters in the Indians lineup.

More from Away Back Gone

He’s got a nice wOBA of .331 and an fWAR of 1.1. Gomes is the unquestioned starter right now but Tito likes to use his rotation of catchers.

With how bad Roberto Perez has played, Gomes has assumed the role most of the time. I think with time the Tribe will call up Eric Haase to give Perez time to improve his bat and health in Triple-A.

Yes Francisco Mejia is hitting better than Haase. But it’s not by much and I personally think that Mejia needs to be getting reps every day. He won’t get that at the Major League level. Eric Haase can’t hit much worse than Roberto Perez.

His stats don’t jump out at you, but when you see Perez’s slash line of .155/.250/.250, that jumps out at you, and not in a good way.

With Haase getting called up, Perez will get a chance to work out his issues in Triple-A where he won’t cost the Tribe valuable at-bats. Haase will also be able to assume a larger role than what Perez has right now. Perez has been a liability this year.

Matt Bretz

For me the answer here is quite simple, Yan Gomes should be the Tribe’s starting catcher right now. While I totally understand the allure of Francisco Mejia, I just don’t think he’s quite ready to take over the pitching staff. His bat has been very good recently in Columbus but catching is of course about more than just offense.

Yan Gomes has been no slouch himself this year at the plate either. He’s got a 108 wRC+ on the season, which while not exciting is above average, especially for a catcher. He’s got nine home runs on the season too, which are the fourth most among American League catchers.

The biggest stat for Gomes though is that he’s currently third in the American League in WAR among catchers at 1.1 (per Fangraphs), behind only Max Stassi and Gary Sanchez (both at 1.2).

One can make a case Gomes not only should be the Indians starting catcher, but one of the American League’s catchers on the All-Star team this summer in Washington. Mejia’s time will eventually come, perhaps later this year as a platoon with Yan. But for now, Gomes deserves to start. He’s the best combination of bat and glove the Tribe has right now.

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Even if he struggles at times versus right-handed pitching (79 wRC+), he makes up for it with how he handles the staff. Pitchers trust him and with how good the rotation has been, hard to argue against sticking with the veteran Gomes.