Brazil has long been an untamed frontier in baseball. It’s a country with a multiplicity of unharnessed ability. We have watched Brazilians become some of the best soccer players in the world. But every effort to find a baseball player of the same caliber has failed. However, tonight is the first tangible step in the development of baseball in Brazil. Yan Gomes will make his major league debut.
Gomes was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil before his family moved to Miami when he was 12. After arriving, Gomes soon took up the game of baseball, specifically the catcher position. Gomes attended Miami Southridge High School before attending the University of Tennessee. After hitting .316 in his junior season for the Volunteers, Gomes was a 39th round pick by the Boston Red Sox but did not sign. Then in 2009, after spending the year at Barry University near his family’s Miami home, Gomes was a 10th round pick by the Blue Jays. This time he did sign.
In 2009, Gomes made his pro debut, spending 4 games with the Rookie level GCL Blue Jays and 60 with the Short Season-A Auburn Doubledays, and he hit well, posting a .300/.370/.439 line with 23 doubles, 2 triples, 2 homers, and 46 RBI. Defensively, he threw out an impressive 38% of attempted basestealers in 32 games at catcher. The following season, he drilled 23 more doubles and 9 homers in 75 games, although his batting line slipped to .270/.309/.471 in 75 games between High-A and Double-A. His CS% was a solid 30%. At that point, the Blue Jays though of Gomes as more of a backup catcher with a little pop. But Gomes made the Blue Jays get him in the lineup more.
In 2011, Gomes’ batting average slipped to just .248 as he spent most of the season at Double-A, but he improved his plate discipline to get his OBP up to .315 and hit for more power, posting a .455 SLG as he hit 19 doubles and 13 homers in 83 games. He played 47 games at catcher and also 20 at first base, where he made just 1 error after not playing there since his days at Tennessee. Then in 2012, Gomes started off hot at Triple-A Las Vegas, posting a .359/.391/.565 line with 12 doubles, 5 homers, and 22 RBI in 33 RBI. Even more impressively, Gomes hit that well while learning a new position. Gomes appeared in 12 games at catcher and 9 games at first base, but he also appeared in 10 at third base, and although he got off to a rough start there, he eventually got the hang of it. He played well enough there that following Adam Lind‘s demotion, the Blue Jays were confident enough in Gomes’ all-around ability to call him up to the major leagues. Tonight, Gomes will start at third base for the Blue Jays as they take on the New York Yankees.
Gomes has taken a unique path to the big leagues, starting from his Brazilian birth. He is not going to be a superstar, but he’s going to get the most out of abilities. He has done whatever the Jays have asked him to do in terms of playing different positions and improving his plate discipline. And with his natural power, he has the ability to be a solid big league player who can play multiple positions. It’s a big deal that Gomes will be the first Brazilian to appear in an MLB game tonight. But don’t forget Gomes himself. He has an opportunity with the Blue Jays and the pressure is on him now that the Blue Jays are giving him a chance for regular playing time. It will be fun to see whether he can take advantage- and make his countrymen proud.
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