You probably heard a lot about a New Hampshire Fisher Cats catcher named Travis d’Arnaud this past season.
He came over in the Roy Halladay trade. We ranked him as the Jays’ 11th-best prospect before the season. He finished the regular season with a .311/.371/.542 slash line and he captured Eastern League MVP honors.
There was, however, another catcher on the Fisher Cats’ championship roster that deserved a lot credit, who sometimes gets lost among the Jays’ bounty of high-quality catching prospects.
That would be Yan Gomes, who closed the regular season on fire and has is continuing to work on his game in the Arizona Fall League.
Selected by the Jays in the 10th round of the 2009 Amateur Draft, Gomes has made the most of his minor league career so far.
After appearing in just four rookie ball games he spent the majority of his draft year playing 60 games for the Jays’ former short-season affiliate, the Auburn Doubledays. A .296 average there, along with 23 doubles and an .807 OPS, earned the Brazilian-born catcher a promotion when the 2010 campaign began. Instead of bumping Gomes up to Lansing, though, the Jays decided on having him skip that level entirely and start off the season with Hi-A Dunedin instead.
Once again, Gomes did more than just hold his own while with Dunedin, both behind the plate and inside the batter’s box. Defensively, he committed just two errors and was charged with only three passed balls in 53 games with the D-Jays, while throwing out 32 percent of basestealers. Though he’s known primarily for his defensive abilities, Gomes smacked 21 doubles and nine home runs en route to a .275 average and .801 OPS in 2010 as well. With d’Arnaud having suffered an injury that year, Gomes proved he was more than capable of stepping up and being the club’s most reliable backstop.
Gomes was rewarded for his strong play in Dunedin with a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire this past season. However, with d’Arnaud fully healthy and assuming everyday catching duties there this past season, Gomes was forced to play 20 games at first base and 16 at DH in order to get more consistent at-bats. It initially took him some time to get used to playing multiple positions more regularly, as evidenced by his .130/.149/.239 slash line in his first 12 Double-A games.
After posting a .983 OPS in May and .825 in June, though, Gomes was able to close out the first half of the season with a brief stint at Triple-A Las Vegas, marking yet another promotion for him. Though he appeared in only six games there and just four as catcher, Gomes enjoyed the experience.
“I got to experience the next level and go from Double-A to Triple-A,” Gomes said in a recent interview with 1BlueJaysWay. “It was kind of like a sneak peek at what’s up there. There are a lot of veterans with experience [in the Pacific Coast League]. I feel like I did pretty good, even though my stats [3-for-14] may not show it, but I felt pretty comfortable up there, so that’s definitely a good thing.”
It seemed that, with the promotion to Triple-A as well as the All-Star break, there was an adjustment period for Gomes upon returning to New Hampshire. In his 14 July games with the Fisher Cats, he went 9-for-46 (.196) at the plate with seven singles and a pair of home runs while striking out the most times in one month since April.
When the calendar flipped to August, though, Gomes went on an absolute tear. On August 2, he went 2-for-3 with a walk and a home run, and that performance kick-started his red-hot run up until the end of the regular season.
From August 2 to September 5, a span of 29 games in which he played, Gomes went 30-for-104 (.288) at the plate, managing a hit in 21 of 29 games while drawing at least one walk in three of the eight other games that he was held without a hit. Exactly half of his hits were for extra bases (eight doubles, one triple, and six home runs), and his .914 OPS over that span was actually better than d’Arnaud’s. Interestingly enough, Gomes, a right-handed hitter, put up better numbers against right-handed pitchers this past season, clubbing 11 of his 13 home runs against them.
Gomes continued to perform defensively with New Hampshire in 2011 as well, as he was charged with only four passed balls and threw out 17 of 51 (33%) basestealers. Needless to say, with the Jays possessing great catching prospects like d’Arnaud, Carlos Perez, and A.J. Jimenez, on top of having J.P. Arencibia starting at the big league level, it’s important to still keep an eye on Gomes despite the organization’s great depth behind the plate.
The Jays opted to keep an eye on Gomes this winter, as they selected him as one of their eight prospects to participate in the Arizona Fall League this year. He’s off to a slow start with only six singles in 27 at-bats, but he has drawn five walks and is just soaking up the experience as much as he can. Below is a recent video with Gomes from the AFL, courtesy of the Jays’ official site.