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Roster review: Jose Lobaton

Nov 18, 2015, 6:00 AM EST

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Age on Opening Day 2016: 31

How acquired: Trade with Rays, Feb. 2014

MLB service time: 4 years, 138 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $1.2 million

Contract status: Arbitration eligible, free agent in 2018

2015 stats: 44 G, 155 PA, 11 R, 27 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 15 BB, 40 SO, .199 AVG, .279 OBP, .294 SLG, .573 OPS, 2 E, -0.3 WAR

2015 analysis: Jose Lobaton played in only 44 games in 2015 and there was a good reason for that. Primary catcher Wilson Ramos was finally able to stay healthy and caught a career-high 128 games, thus forcing Lobaton to take a reduced role.

Whether it was the sparse playing time or not, Lobaton did not have a very good year at the plate. He hit just .199 and didn’t even crack the .300 mark with his slugging percentage. Lobaton didn’t provide much of anything on offense for the Nationals this year, his second season with the team.

Lobaton was, however, pretty good on defense, at least when he worked with Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez’ ERA was 3.39 through 20 games with Lobaton, much lower than the 4.52 mark he had working with Ramos. Lobaton also drew positive reviews this season for his ability to frame pitches.

Basically, Lobaton was a seldom-needed backup this season who was much more valuable on defense than he was on offense.

2016 outlook: Lobaton is under contract for the 2016 season and as of now appears to be in the Nationals’ plans for next year. He is a valuable asset as an experienced No. 2 catcher and being a switch-hitter doesn’t hurt.

Lobaton’s future could come down to what the Nationals decide this offseason about Ramos as a starting catcher. He was a Gold Glove finalist and Mike Rizzo gave him a vote of confidence at the GM meetings last week. But Ramos did not have the season on offense many of us thought he was capable of if he stayed healthy. That puts catcher as a sort of wild card as a potential need this winter.

If the Nationals decide to upgrade at the catcher position – and whether that is even possible is unclear – that could certainly affect Lobaton. But for now he certainly appears to be safe as the Nats’ backup with Ramos as the starter ahead of him.

  1. Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    Jose is an adequate backup catcher, no better, no worse, [well, maybe a little worse offensively]. I think his pitch framing is probably superior to Ramos, but it got kind of silly at times the way that FP went on and on about it.

    I think that defensively both Nats catchers have some great strengths, but I also think that they, and the team, would benefit greatly from increased drills on taking throws from the OF and properly applying tags. I wonder how Severino is in that regard?

    Off-topic, but in the AL Rookie of the Year voting our old buddy Billy Burns finished 5th. For the record:Burns led the A’s in batting average (.294), runs (70), base hits (153), triples (9), and stolen bases (26). According to A’s Baseball Information Services, Burns led all AL rookies in stolen bases, multiple hit games (47), and hits. And he wasn’t called up until the beginning of May. [Point of reference, the only players on the Nats with more hits were Harper and Escobar]. The .294 average was second best in Oakland history by a rookie.

    I hope that in 2016 it will be Trea Turner that will be getting a lot of accolades for his rookie campaign!

    And by possibly 2017, but more likely 2018, it may be a kid coming up from Low A named Victor Robles. This kid seems to be someone very special that is playing years ahead of his tender young age.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2015 at 10:54 AM

      [BTW, Burns had 153 hits].

    • trfwans - Nov 18, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      What got kind of silly is the way you guys kept complaining about FP saying good things about Lobaton’s pitch framing. It’s the only really good thing about Lobaton’s game, so why shouldn’t FP point that out? And saying something good about Lobaton is not saying something bad about Ramos. It’s not a zero sum game.

      • natsguy - Nov 18, 2015 at 12:40 PM

        Lobaton is a far better pitch caller than Ramos. Strasburg and Gio preferred to have him as their catcher. Strasburg referred to it as like pitching on auto pilot.

      • letsallbaseball - Nov 18, 2015 at 2:57 PM

        @natsguy

        Ramos caught both of Scherzer’s no hitters didn’t he? That has to count for something. I do love Lobaton’s work behind the plate though.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:22 PM

        “You guys?” That’s the first time I ever mentioned FP going on about it. Ever. I like FP but when Kevin Frandsen was here his (FP’s) man-crush on him was rather silly, too. As to his blathering on and on about the Loboton’s superior pitch framing, I thought it got silly when some games he pointed it out multiple times an inning for a whole game.

      • therealjohnc - Nov 18, 2015 at 3:54 PM

        FWIW, Baseball Information Solutions (BIS) rates Ramos as a better pitch caller than Lobaton. I have no idea of their methodology, but I daresay it’s more likely to be correct than a fan reading the tea leaves of offhand remarks by players. What I do know is that the PB/WP ratio for Ramos is much better than Lobaton’s. And no, it’s not because Lobaton caught Gio. I checked. Ramos still has a better PB/WP rate (per inning pitched) than Lobaton does when catching Gio, but it’s very, very close. But when Lobaton caught anyone else, he was pretty awful.

        Which raises an interesting possibility. Most of us have assumed that Lobaton was Gio’s personal catcher because Gio preferred Lobaton. The data suggests that another, more likely reason is that Lobaton is so bad catching the other pitchers that having him catch Gio was the least damaging way of getting Ramos at least some time off.

      • trfwans - Nov 18, 2015 at 4:56 PM

        Perhaps Lobaton was bad catching pitchers other than Gio because he had very little opportunity to catch them and learn their stuff.

  2. rgsie - Nov 18, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    I like this guy….good catcher…good clutch hitter…let’s keep him. NEXT?????

  3. edshelton2013 - Nov 18, 2015 at 6:32 PM

    Back in “the day”, anyone who hit .199 didn’t make the team.
    Look for Rizzo to move Lobaton this winter, maybe even Ramos.

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