4. Raudy Read
Catcher has been one of the most glaring weaknesses on the Nationals roster since their arrival in Washington 15 years ago. With the exception of a productive (albeit injury-plagued) stretch from Wilson Ramos from 2011 to 2016, the Nats have struggled to get replacement-level production from the position. After losing Ramos to free agency, former All-Star Matt Wieters was brought in to attempt to provide stability at catcher, but he hit just .230/.303/.355 with obviously declining defensive abilities.
The latest attempt at getting strong production from catcher saw the Nationals trade for Yan Gomes and sign respected veteran Kurt Suzuki for another stint in the District. Neither has provided much in the way of offense so far, and Suzuki has only thrown out one of eight attempted stolen bases. It’s the nature of the position that the Nationals will have to look to the Minor Leagues at some point this season for some backstop reinforcements.
Washington has two catchers in the Minor Leagues who could potentially contribute in the big leagues later this season in Raudy Read and Spencer Kieboom. Both have already made their MLB debuts. Kieboom hit .232/.322/.320 in 52 games with the Nats last season, while Read played eight games at the end of 2017 and hit .273/.273/.273 in 11 at-bats. Unfortunately Read was popped for steroids and served an 80-game suspension last year.
Of the two, Read is younger and has more upside. The 25-year-old came on strong in the Minors in 2017, hitting 17 home runs. The steroid suspension, however, creates some questions about how legitimate the power surge was. Regardless, Read does have what it takes to help the Nationals as a backup catcher. He handles the bat well, makes consistent contact and has thrown well behind the plate in the minor leagues.