On Sunday, the Marlins announced seven minor-league signings, a list that includes former Red Sox catcher Sandy León. The Venezuelan backstop has been invited to spring camp and one can assume that he will receive a chance to make the Opening Day roster, especially if the team doesn’t get after anybody else at that position.
What does León bring to the Marlins? If he’s at his best, he can bring what the Marlins expect from Chad Wallach and Jorge Alfaro in one ballplayer: decent offense and great defensive skills behind the plate. His best season came in 2016, when he hit for a .310/.369/.476 slash line (.845 OPS), with 17 doubles and seven home runs for the Red Sox in 78 games.
But generally, León has struggled in the batter’s box during parts of nine MLB seasons. Most recently, he was a .177/.248/.280 hitter from 2018 to 2020 while playing in Boston and Cleveland.
León’s defense has kept him in the bigs. He knows how to call games, has a good arm (34% CS), and is among the game’s finest pitch-framers, especially in 2018 (12.5 FRM), the year he won the World Series with the Red Sox.
This winter, León is playing for Tigres del Licey in the Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana and collected eight hits (three home runs) across 50 at-bats and 17 games. He registered seven RBIs and five runs, with eight walks and 16 strikeouts (.160/.288/.340).
While the Marlins trust Jorge Alfaro to finally have the season we’ve been all expecting from him offensively and defensively, they aren’t resting on their laurels. In 2016, León improbably leapfrogged Christian Vázquez and Blake Swihart to take over as the primary catcher in Boston despite opening the season as little more than a depth option in Triple-A. His presence should motivate Alfaro and Wallach to be the best versions of themselves.