2020 season age: 31 – Throws: Right – Bats: Switch- Contract: – $2 million (final year of club control)
2019 in review: It was an underwhelming offensive year in 2019 for Leon, to say the least. He slashed just .192/.251/.297 with five homers, three doubles and 19 RBI. He played in just 65 games, his lowest total since 2014. He also had a rough defensive year, throwing out just seven of 31 attempted base stealers and he was worth -0.2 fWAR. It was a strange swap for the Indians, as they non-tendered Kevin Plawecki to add Leon, as the Red Sox non-tendered him. The Indians paid slightly more money to add Leon than the Red Sox did for Plawecki later in the winter.
Beyond the stats: Defense has been Leon’s carrying tool as a major league player since he came into the league in 2012, save for a two month stretch in 2016. The Indians admitted that one of the reasons they moved on from Kevin Plawecki and ended up with Sany Leon is because they would be tempted to pull Plawecki late in games for Roberto Perez for defense. The Indians are banking on Leon’s track record defensively because in 2019, his Fielding Runs Above Average Adjusted (per Baseball Prospectus, the industry leader in advanced catching metrics), he had just a 2.9 mark, down from 11.7 in 2018 and 10.8 in 2018. He also had a -1.0 mark in block runs saved and -0.2 in throwing runs, which goes along with his below average CS% rate. The Indians believe in the track record and the ability to turn his 2019 around.
Offensive impact: Leon is a switch hitter, which the Indians apparently value given that he’s the sixth switch hitter on the 40 man roster. However, he’s hit below .200 the last two seasons (.192 and .177) He’s not provided much power in his career, seven homers was his career high in his 2016 offensive breakout. In his career, Leon really doesn’t show much offensive prowess from either side of the plate – a 67 wRC+ mark against left handed pitching and 59 against right handed pitchers. Leon runs somewhat average walk rates, around 6%, but that doesn’t really boost his overall offensive profile without much hitting to go along with it.
Defensive impact: As noted, the Indians added Leon for his defense, though 2019 was a down year for him defensively compared to his past ratings. The Indians do like him to call games, handle a pitching staff and hopefully rebound by being a better blocker, framer and throw more runners out than he did a year ago. His track record prior to 2019 suggests Leon is a good defender and the Red Sox liked him for that quality as well, to the Indians aren’t the only ones who feel that way. The Red Sox just didn’t want to go to the third year of arbitration with Leon, so they non-tendered him and the Indians non-tendered Plawecki, so they just basically swapped catchers through free agency.
2020 role: Leon is going to be the backup to Roberto Perez, who will probably play 120 games or so. The Indians seemed concerned about Plawecki’s defense a year ago, so if they trust Leon’s defense Perez will get the same amount of days off and Leon can be counted on to finish games it seems. Leon and Perez are the only two catchers on the Indians 40 man roster, so this is the tandem they’ll count on to get through 162 and hopefully more. Perez had ankle surgery over the winter but seems to be fine during spring, but Leon is clearly the only backup for now.
Fantasy impact: Even if Perez goes down for some reason and Leon becomes the Indians everyday catcher, there are better options for you to consider even if you’re just punting catcher or suffered an injury at the position. Leon had a two month stretch in 2016 where he was a great hitting catcher and was above average offensively for the season overall, but Leon isn’t someone you would even roster in the situation you don’t try at catcher in fantasy, even in two catcher leagues.