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2017 IBI Preview Capsule: Yan Gomes

Yan Gomes has experienced some tough luck the last couple years both in the injury department and at the plate. So going into 2017, the question is can he not just stay healthy, but also regain the form that won him a Silver Slugger in 2014?

The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.

Yan Gomes, C

Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-29 season -- Contract: Fourth year of 6-year/$23 million with club options for 2020 and 2021 (Free agent in 2020-22)

2016 In Review: After a rocky 2015 campaign where an early-season knee injury pretty much put him behind the eight ball for the rest of the year, Yan Gomes was looking to turn things around again last season. Unfortunately, 2016 didn't go according to plan for the Tribe catcher either as he batted just .167 with nine homers and 34 RBI's in 74 games. If that wasn't enough, he was hit with the injury bug once again suffering a separated shoulder in July and then fracturing his wrist during a minor league rehab game after being hit by a pitch. Roberto Perez has filled the starting catching role admirably over the last two years while Gomes was on the shelf, but the Brazilian native has his sights set on a true bounce-back season in 2017 in hopes of staying on the field and rediscovering his former Silver Slugger offense.

Versus Right-handers: Gomes has never hit right-handed pitching particularly well in his career, but whatever struggles he did have were magnified immensely during the 2016 campaign. In 181 at-bats against right-handers last season, the 29-year-old recorded just 23 hits, adding up to a mere .127 average, and a .445 OPS, marking the lowest such platoon marks he has ever had in a season. 12 of his 21 extra-base hits were hit off of right-handed hurlers, however. In his career, Gomes has batted .229 with a .676 OPS against right-handed pitching while clubbing 96 of his 143 career extra-base knocks against them.

Versus Left-handers: If Roberto Perez was left-handed, the Indians would have a better catching situation on their hands since Gomes has proven to be far more effective at the plate with a southpaw on the mound. His splits against left-handed pitching have been considerably better, even last season as he posted a slash line of .271/.297/.443, making up a .740 OPS. Not fantastic numbers and certainly not the best the Tribe backstop put up against lefties, but still solid and somewhat surprising given how meager his overall statistics were last year. Aside from 2015, this has always been the case for Gomes as he has a career .283 average and .781 OPS against left-handers. If anything, we now know that even at his worst, he's a guy you'd want at bat with a lefty on the mound.

Defense: There is one part of Gomes's game that has remained unaffected by his struggles and injuries of the last couple seasons and that is his defense, which has ranked among the league's top catchers since assuming the starting role with the Tribe. Since 2013, Gomes has posted a caught-stealing percentage of at least 30% each season, including a 37% clip last year which is the highest since his 41% mark in 2013. His career 34.6 percentage currently ranks sixth among qualified, active backstops in baseball. Additionally, Brazil's first major league product has 18 career defensive runs saved, with most of them coming in 2013 (11), but he has remained in positive territory every year since. The way both he and Perez handle the pitching staff and control the run game are why the Indians are better with either of them behind the plate regardless of their offensive output.

Fantasy Impact: It's tough to predict what to expect from Gomes in 2017 because he now has two exceptional seasons under his belt followed by two subpar campaigns. Steamer and Depth Charts are somewhat optimistic, however, as they have him hitting .237 with anywhere from eight to 12 home runs and 31 to 43 RBI's. Those may not look like All-Star numbers, but his projected OPS and ISO are .682 and .166, respectively and his anticipated value is between 1.0 and 1.3 WAR, all of which would be the highest marks he's had since his Silver Slugger campaign of 2014. Depth Charts has him playing in 20 more games than Steamer at 84, but it's still not the playing time you'd expect to see from a starting catcher. While all his injuries of the last couple years have been freakish in nature, projection models still have to work with what they've been dealt. Plus, after all the work Roberto Perez has put in, he'll likely get a sizeable chunk of playing time this year no matter what.

Summary: For a two-year span, Yan Gomes was considered one of the best all-around catchers in the game. While he still rates near the top in fielding, that sentiment has definitely changed since then. Gomes will provide the Indians with reliable defense and leadership for the pitching staff behind the plate, but what he can provide swinging the bat right now is anyone's guess. Thanks to some aggressive and savvy offseason moves, Cleveland stands to have one of the more potent lineups in the majors in 2017. So there won't be significant pressure on Gomes or Roberto Perez to produce at an All-Star level, but there's still that tantalizing picture of what the Tribe offense would look like with Gomes hitting at his pre-2015 levels. The 29-year-old will enter the new season just as hungry as the rest of the squad for that elusive championship, but 2017 will also likely be about trying to prove he can still be a productive hitter as well as an effective catcher.

Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.

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