Yan Gomes

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Yan Gomes

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Biographical Information[edit]

On May 17, 2012, Yan Gomes became the first major leaguer from Brazil.

Born in Sao Paulo, Gomes was first introduced to baseball when his father met a Cuban baseball coach in Brazil, who recruited the young Yan to play. The family moved and he grew up in Florida; Andre Rienzo would be the first major leaguer born and raised in Brazil. He hit .481 as a high school junior. Going on to college, he hit .310/.399/.465 as a freshman for the University of Tennessee, starting at first base and backing up J.P. Arencibia at catcher. In 2008, the sophomore batted .316/.398/.446 while replacing Arencibia as the starting catcher. He was second on the team in average behind Kentrail Davis.

Gomes then transferred from the high-profile Southeastern Conference to a NCAA Division II program Barry University. He dominated in 2009, putting up a .405/.480/.775 line with 21 homers, 69 runs and 92 RBI in 55 games. He was named the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year. He was named the Division II All-American at third baseman by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

The Toronto Blue Jays picked Gomes in the 10th round of the 2009 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Carlos Rodriguez and went 5 for 14 for the GCL Blue Jays then batted .296/.363/.444 for the Auburn Doubledays with 23 doubles and 44 RBI in 60 games. He led the New York-Penn League in RBI and doubles. He played only 75 games in 2010, split between the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League and the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League. He hit .270/.309/.471 between the two teams, with 23 doubles and 9 homers, splitting time at catcher with top prospect Travis d'Arnaud in the FSL. Both were promoted to the AA Eastern League in 2011, with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. D'Arnaud was named the league's MVP, but Yan also held his own, batting .250/.317/.464 with 18 doubles and 13 homers in 79 games. He also played 20 games at first base that year, as well as 4 games in AAA with the Las Vegas 51s.

He was invited to the Jays' spring training in 2012, and made an excellent impression. With the team rich in catching talent, with Arencibia now holding the starting job in Toronto, and d'Arnaud about to join him, the Jays decided to convert Gomes into a utility player, giving him playing time at first base and third base in addition to occasionally spelling d'Arnaud behind the plate at Las Vegas. He got off to a very good start and after 33 games, was hitting .359/.391/.565. With starting 1B Adam Lind in a huge slump in Toronto, where he was batting .186 and slugging .314, the Jays decided to make a radical move. They sent the veteran Lind down to Las Vegas to try to right his swing, and called up Gomes on May 17th.

Gomes was inserted into the starting line-up at third base against the New York Yankees in his first day with the Blue Jays, thus becoming the first Brazilian to play in the major leagues. He had a very solid debut, going 2 for 3 in a 4-1 win. With 3B Brett Lawrie still having three days to serve on a suspension incurred for slamming his batting helmet to the ground and hitting umpire Bill Miller with it as a result, Gomes had a small opportunity to state his case for a full-time job on the Jays' big league roster. The next day, he homered off Jonathon Niese for his first long ball in The Show. He played 43 games in the majors that first season, hitting .204/.264/.367 with 4 homers and 13 RBI in 98 at-bats. He played 20 games at first base, 9 as a catcher, 8 at third base and 4 in left field, showing his versatility. At Las Vegas, he finished the season at .328/.380/.559, with 29 doubles and 13 homers in 79 games. On November 3rd, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians along with recently-acquired infielder Mike Aviles in return for pitcher Esmil Rogers.

Gomes then was the big name on the Brazilian national team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers but did not remain with them for the 2013 World Baseball Classic itself, as he wanted to prepare for his first full big league season with a new team. The decision paid off as he had a very good year with the Indians in 2013 as the team surprised by reaching the Wild Card Game. Gomes opened the year with the AAA Columbus Clippers but was called up after 6 games of hitting .300 with 4 doubles and then played 88 games with Cleveland, gradually taking over for Carlos Santana as the starting catcher while the latter became more of a first baseman. He hit .294/.345/.481 with 18 doubles, 11 homers and 38 RBI, then went 2 for 4 with a double against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Game on October 2nd. He had the highest percentage of runners caught stealing among American League catchers, retiring 40.8% of would-be base stealers. On March 29, 2014, the Indians rewarded Yan with a six-year contract for $23 million, clearly indicating that he was considered the catcher of the future. He responded with an excellent season, winning the Silver Slugger Award as the best-hitting catcher in the American League when he hit .278 with 21 homers and 74 RBIs in 135 games. He was no longer seen as a utility player, as had been the case only a couple of years earlier: he made 121 starts at catcher, and the other 8 as the team's DH, while his arm and defensive work behind the plate drew praise, as did his handling of young pitchers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, who both had breakout seasons.

He suffered a knee injury in the early days of the 2015 season in a collision at home plate with Rajai Davis in the 9th inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers on April 11th. As a result, he was placed on the disabled for the first time of his career the next day and only came back on May 24th. He only hit .231 that year, in 95 games, with 12 homers and 45 RBIs. The Indians then had a great first half in 2016, but Gomes was the odd man out. After 71 games, he was hitting a mere .165, with 8 homers and 32 RBIs. He was healthy and playing well on defence and in handling the pitching staff, but just couldn't come up with any hits. To try to help him out, his teammates decided to "sacrifice a chicken to the baseball Gods" in a mock voodoo ceremony on July 16th, but it seemed they riled up those very gods, as the next day, Gomes took a tumble while trying to avoid a tag at first base in a game against the Minnesota Twins and fell hard on his right shoulder. He was immediately placed on the disabled list with a separated shoulder, the prognosis being for an absence of one or two months. He only came back on September 30th and played 3 games before the end of the season, not enough to re-claim the starting job from Roberto Perez, who had taken over for him in his absence. He did not play in the first two rounds of the postseason, and in the historic 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs, he went 0 for 4 in 4 games.

After that disappointing season, Gomes won back his starting job from Perez in 2017 when he played 105 games, hit .232 and had 15 doubles and 14 homers, with 56 RBIs. The Indians repeated as Central Division champions and won over 100 games, but were upset by the New York Yankees in the Division Series. He played 3 of the 5 games, splitting his time with Perez, and went 2 for 6 with a double. In 2018 he was named to the All-Star team for the first time as he hit .266 in 112 games with 26 doubles, 16 homers and 48 RBIs. However, again the postseason ended with a quick exit at the Division Series stage, this time against the Houston Astros, and he went 2 for 8 in 3 games. After the season, the Indians had a bit of a reckoning as they felt they needed to make changes in order to keep their window of competitiveness open by dealing from areas of strength to shed a few more expensive contracts and address problem areas elsewhere, namely the bullpen and the outfield. With two major league quality starting catchers on hand, it was clear that Gomes was on the bubble and on November 30th he was sent to the Washington Nationals in return for three prospects: P Jefry Rodriguez, OF Daniel Johnson and a player to be named later (Andruw Monasterio).

In his first season with the Nationals in 2019, Yan teamed up with Kurt Suzuki to give the team a solid catching combo. He batted .223 with 12 homers and 43 RBIs in 97 games - below his usual standards, but the team made a tremendous late-season surge to get into the postseason, and then made a remarkable run that culminated in their securing the first championship in franchise history. He appeared in 9 postseason games, going 7 for 29 (.241), including five games in the World Series win over the Houston Astros that went to the limit of seven games. The 2020 season was cut to 60 games by the COVID-19 pandemic and Gomes played in exactly half of them, batting .284 with 4 homers and 13 RBIs and an OPS+ of 113 as he bounced back to his normal offensive level. The Nationals missed the postseason, however, and were on the way to do so again in 2021 when they decided to strip down. In a few days, gone were P Max Scherzer, SS Trea Turner, relievers Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson - and him. He was batting .271 in 63 games, with 9 homers and 35 RBIs and an OPS+ of 115 when he was sent to the Oakland Athletics on July 30th alongside IF Josh Harrison in return for three prospects.

Gomes is married to the daughter of Atlee Hammaker, Jenna.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jamal Collier: "Gomes brings offensive boost at backstop: All-Star catcher to share time with Suzuki", mlb.com, December 1, 2018. [1]


Related Sites[edit]