Individual player recaps for your 2023 Nationals -Catchers!


C/DH Keibert Ruiz, 24

How Acquired: Traded by the Dodgers for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, 7/30/2021

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB

The Numbers: 0.0 fWAR/1.3 rWAR


What We Learned: That you have to be patient with young catchers. The Nats have historically been even worse at developing their own catchers than their own pitchers, so the trade for Ruiz as one of the two biggest return pieces at the 2021 deadline made sense. He then became the youngest regular starting backstop for the Nats since the Buffalo (similarly a trade deadline acquisition who was blocked at his previous franchise), and became the first piece of the new young core to get a long-term extension from the Nats early this season when he signed a $50 million deal that will keep him in a curly W through 2030 with two team options beyond that. Ruiz more than doubled his home run output this season but saw a defensive drop-off (rating as the third-worst framer in the sport and getting no help in holding runners from a pitching staff full of guys with huge leg kicks). When Ruiz remembers to swing at pitches he can barrel, he can run hot for weeks, but then will eventually revert to swinging at everything remotely close to the plate. If he’s hitting sixth or seventh, you feel pretty good about the lineup. If he’s hitting third or fourth, as he did for most of the last month-plus? Yikes. 

40-Man Odds: 100%

2024 Outlook: Barring injury, the starting catcher for 110 games and the designated hitter for 10-20 more. More of the second half Ruiz (.285/.332/.443) would be great, though. 

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: Yes and yes. He most certainly will, given that he’s under contract through the rest of the decade, and he can as well. Again, we have to be patient with catchers.

C/DH Riley Adams, 27

How Acquired: Traded by the Blue Jays for Brad Hand, 7/30/2021

Prospect Rank: N/A

2023 Level: MLB

The Numbers: 0.4 fWAR/1.0 rWAR


What We Learned: That judiciously playing Adams against a lot of lefties (.333/.395/.565 in almost half his PA) and a 130-point swing in BABIP from 2022 make for a good bat-first backup catcher. He might never be more than that, but after a pretty ugly 2022 he salvaged his MLB career before breaking his hamate bone on a swing in a pinch-hitting performance against the Mets in early September.

40-Man Odds: 100%

2024 Outlook: It stinks for Riley that as a bat-forward guy he now has to recover from one of the worst injuries for a hitter to suffer while a more athletic, better defensive backup catcher with two extra years of team control is nipping at his heels, but that’s life sometimes. Does Rizzo try to find a taker in a trade? Might there be a team out there that views him as a starter? If so, that would be the easiest solution to this problem (no, I don’t think Adams is an everyday guy whose bat will profile well at first base – this season was probably the best we can expect from him).

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: If the team chooses him over Millas, yes. But given that Ruiz is *also* a bat-first catcher, Millas might be the better choice as his caddy rather than Adams.

C Drew Millas, 25

How Acquired: Traded by the A’s for Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes, 7/30/2021

Prospect Rank: WAS #22 (Pipeline)

2023 Level: AA, AAA, MLB

The Numbers: 0.2 fWAR/0.2 rWAR


What We Learned: That Millas is the most athletic catcher who has ever suited up for the Nats. Apart from beaning Jackson Rutledge with a throw to second in the latter’s debut, Millas looked like a really good defensive catcher and graded out as an 80th percentile base runner for good measure. He also hit well in a very limited sample (and has consistently maintained a double-digit walk rate throughout his minor league career, so there’s reason to believe he can be a capable major league hitter). If he keeps it up perhaps we will see fake middle school mustaches around Nats Park.

40-Man Odds: 100%

2024 Outlook: It looks like Millas will be the backup catcher until and unless Adams recovers quickly from his hamate injury.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: Millas would be perfect as the backup catcher on a good team, so yes.

C Israel Pineda, 23

How Acquired: Signed as an international free agent, 7/2/2016

Prospect Rank: WAS #21 (Pipeline)

2023 Level: FCL/A+/AA

The Numbers:


What We Learned: That Pineda might be superfluous to operations, even as a backup catcher. In early March, Pineda displaced the pinky of his right hand and landed on the 60-day IL to start the season, where he remained until August. In the meantime, Millas lapped him from behind, and Pineda struggled mightily in his return.

40-Man Odds: 1% – hard to see anyone claiming even a backup catcher with that stat line.

2024 Outlook: Assuming he clears waivers (he should), he will get assigned to AA or AAA as depth and be on hand as a potential call-up if there are multiple injuries to backstops.

Can/Will He Be On a 2025 Contender?: Probably not as anything more than a guy with a couple of token call-ups, especially not if Millas and Adams both remain with the organization.

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