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MLB Rookie Profile: Pedro Severino, C, Washington Nationals

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Pedro Severino’s glove got him to the majors. Can his bat keep him there?

MLB: Washington Nationals at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we took a quick look at Washington Nationals rookie catcher Raudy Read. The Nationals also brought rookie catcher Pedro Severino to the majors for September. Severino has been around awhile and this is the third season he’s received a cup-of-coffee in the Show, but he’s still a rookie and still worthy of attention. Here’s a quick update.

Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, Severino is renowned for his defensive ability. Mobility, arm strength, instincts, leadership skills, all are solid to excellent and he is an unusually polished defender for his age.

That’s been true since he signed but his prospect status has gone up and down depending on perceptions of his offensive potential. His 2016 season was just adequate with the bat in Triple-A, but even a .271/.316/.337 line was better than what came before. He also hit very well during a brief major league trial last year. Severino ranked 12th on the Washington Nationals 2017 Top 20 prospects list pre-season, with this comment:

12) Pedro Severino, C, Grade C+: Age 23, from the Dominican Republic, hit .271/.316/.337 with two homers, 19 walks, 45 strikeouts in 291 at-bats in Triple-A; hit .321/.441/.607 in 28 at-bats in the majors; that’s a small-sample fluke; in a larger sample he’s a .250 hitter without much power, though he is young enough that may improve eventually; superior defensive catcher with strong throwing arm and receiving skills; will last for years as a reserve and may eventually hit enough to get beyond that. ETA 2017.

Indeed, the 2016 surge in the majors was a small sample fluke, as he slumped back to .242/.291/.332 this year in Triple-A. Through 27 MLB at-bats this year he’s hitting .185 with nine strikeouts.

Severino is a right-handed hitter, 6-0, 215, born July 20, 1993. As noted there’s no doubt about his glove. But will he hit? He’s certainly physically strong enough to do so but the strength has never translated into much bat speed or in-game power. He’s impatient too and doesn’t draw many walks.

One (maybe) saving grace: he does make contact and avoids strikeouts, but unfortunately this just results in a lot of 5-3 and 6-3 grounders. If he can learn to loft the ball more often, perhaps that will change eventually. Catchers often have unusual development curves compared to other hitters and there are some late bloomers, Yadier Molina being the classic example.

Severino’s glove will keep him on major league rosters for the next few seasons, at least long enough to see if the bat can surge. I think it might, but probably three years from now rather than soon.

Example of the defense:

He got some loft on this one: