Being open to playing third base for the Las Vegas 51s this season made 24-year-old Yan Gomes, a catcher first and foremost, more versatile in the eyes of his employer, the Toronto Blue Jays. Less than two months after manning the hot corner for the first time in his professional career, Gomes will be there for his first Major League start tonight against the New York Yankees at Rogers Centre.
With his appearance, the Sao Paulo native will be the first Brazilian-born player to play in the big leagues.
A 10th round pick by the Blue Jays in 2009, Gomes dominated short season ball in his draft year, clubbing 27 extra base hits at the plate while throwing out 34% of basestealers. The following year in 2010, he needed just seven games with Class-A Lansing before playing the rest of the season with High-A Dunedin, where he hammered 21 doubles and nine home runs in only 233 at-bats.
Despite showing promise on both sides of the ball, Gomes has always been lower on the Blue Jays’ organizational depth chart, behind top catching prospects Travis d’Arnaud, A.J. Jimenez and Carlos Perez.
But in addition to earning a brief promotion to Triple-A last season, Gomes closed out his 2011 campaign on a high note with Double-A New Hampshire, reaching base in 24 of his final 29 regular season games with a .288 average and .914 OPS over that span — higher than d’Arnaud, the eventual Eastern League MVP.
Even with successful minor league seasons under his belt, Gomes reported to spring training this season with little fanfare. He did, however, manage to work his way deep into camp as one of the final cuts and left quite an impression on various members of the Jays’ front office and coaching staff, including manager John Farrell.
So when Gomes, in addition to catching and DHing periodically, started playing third base and more at first base this season, he continued to open eyes. The fact he went on a tear at the plate — Pacific Coast League and BABIP aside — in his first 33 games this season to the tune of a .359 average and .956 OPS certainly opened those eyes even further.
So when the Blue Jays optioned first baseman Adam Lind and withdrew third baseman Brett Lawrie‘s suspension appeal in the same day, one right before their first three-game interleague series of the year, calling up Gomes seemed to make the most sense given his options.
I wrote an article on him last October entitled, “Keep an eye on Yan Gomes“, and that still holds true today. He might not get the same coverage as other catching prospects in a well-stocked Blue Jays minor league system, but he does have some pop in his bat and his versatility should come in handy over the next few days.
Gomes’ first major league at-bat will come against right-hander Phil Hughes, which is perfect considering his OPS against right-handed pitching was almost 200 points higher than against southpaws last season. Gomes, a right-handed hitter, has hit nearly all of the home runs in his professional career against right-handers as well.
It’s always exciting to watch a player’s big league debut, and you can catch it live on Sportsnet at 7 p.m. ET.