CAR notes: Leon uncanny at catcher

Potomac backstop best in baseball at throwing out runners

Sandy Leon has gunned down 53 of 103 would-be base-stealers this season. (Cliff Welch/

By Jeff Seidel / Special to | August 17, 2011 6:00 AM ET

Potomac catcher Sandy Leon has posted some impressive statistics this season, though the numbers are a little different from most players.

Most people look at offensive numbers, but Leon's defensive statistics will quickly lure anyone's attention. The 22-year-old catcher leads the entire Minor Leagues in throwing out base-stealers. He's gunned down 53 of 103 base-stealers so far this season, 51.5 percent overall.

How good are those numbers? Baltimore's Matt Wieters is the catcher with the best ratio in the Majors, and his is just 40.6 percent, far below what Leon's done.

"He impacts the game on the defensive side probably more than anybody I've ever seen in the Minor Leagues," said Potomac manager Matt LeCroy. "I played against Pudge, and you take a chance of running into an out every time you try to steal. Sandy's the same way."

Leon is a tireless worker at his craft. LeCroy said Leon goes through a set routine every day, something that helps him and that he never misses.

"I'm just going to keep working," Leon said. "My defense is my strong point, always."

What's even more impressive is that he had only about six months' experience as a catcher before signing with the Washington organization as a non-drafted free agent in January 2007.

Leon often played third base, shortstop and pitcher while growing up in Venezuela. But he switched to catcher when a Yankees scout suggested the move at the age of 16. After that, Leon began working tirelessly at making himself a solid backstop.

When Leon eventually shifted behind the plate, he quickly found success. He has a strong arm and tremendous mechanics and grew into a catcher that people quickly noticed.

"It's a God-given ability, and he's run with it," LeCroy said. "He works harder than any player I have. He stresses his defense."

Leon said the hard work is needed since he started the position late. This is now his fifth year as a catcher, and Leon is more confident than ever.

"I feel real good now," Leon said. "I'm learning on the job. [With] my defense and my throwing, I think I can play anywhere."

But he's also working on his offensive skills now. Leon's average was low his first two seasons (.202, .189) before improvement began. He hit .238 in 2009, .249 last year and .241 so far this season -- hitting much better in the second half this year.

LeCroy thinks Leon's offensive skills will improve the more he plays in the Minors. Simply put, the manager sees him getting better with time and being able to have a solid career in the Major Leagues in some form.

Leon also takes pride in handling the pitching staff, something all good catchers must do. A catcher's ability to nail potential base-stealers is important, and both Leon and LeCroy said not many players run against him any more this season.

He's just that good -- and the numbers prove it.

"His mechanics and footwork are so perfect, it's crazy to watch him," LeCroy said. "As a manager, that's a dream. You don't have to worry about guys who steal."

In brief

Turning for home: Frederick is closing in on the Northern Division's second-half title. The Keys also won the first half, so they would play whoever finishes second in the second half -- which looks like defending-champion Potomac. Winston-Salem has 1 1/2-game lead over Kinston in the Southern Division with first-half winner Myrtle Beach five games back in third.

Time to rally: Kinston overcame a 7-1 deficit Saturday against Salem to force extra innings and escape with a 9-7 victory in 13 frames. The Indians got a run on wild pitch and a sacrifice fly to win in the 13th, despite giving up 17 hits during the four-hour, 28-minute marathon.

Getting chances: Myrtle Beach's offense stayed busy in a 12-5 rout of Potomac last Thursday. The Pelicans, led by Jared Bolden's five-RBI effort, came up with numerous chances, going 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base. Potomac also struggled, finishing 3-for-18 with runner in scoring position and leaving nine.

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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