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Wilson Ramos established himself as the Nats' No. 1 catcher this season.
Stats: 113 G, 435 PA, 15 HR, 52 RBI, .267 AVG, .334 OBP, .445 SLG
5 E, 32% CS rate, 3.1 WAR
2011 salary: $415,000
Contract status: Arb-eligible in 2014, free agent in 2017
Where he fits in: With a solid rookie season, Ramos firmly established himself as the Nationals' No. 1 catcher entering 2012. Though he slumped a bit in midseason, he finished strong, batting .324 with an .895 OPS over his final 39 games. His work behind the plate never slumped, whether in the throwing department or in calling games (several pitchers insisted they rarely, if ever, shook him off late in the season).
Stats: 30 G, 91 PA, 1 HR, 2 RBI, .209 AVG, .253 OBP, .324 SLG
1 E, 20% CS rate, -0.1 WAR
2011 salary: $750,000
Contract status: Arb-eligible, free agent in 2014
Where he fits in: After missing nearly two years with a shoulder injury, Flores made it back to the big leagues this season. That alone made 2011 a success for the Nats' one-time catcher of the future. That said, Flores still has a long way to go to recapture his pre-injury form. The organization seems committed to him as Ramos' backup, though Flores expressed frustration at season's end about his lack of playing time. That could cloud his future.
Stats: 44 G, 137 PA, 2 HR, 19 RBI, .218 AVG, .281 OBP, .323 SLG
3 E, 52% CS rate, 0.4 WAR
2011 salary: $3 million
Contract status: Free agent
Where he fits in: Rodriguez doesn't appear to fit into the Nationals' plans moving forward. Though he remains a valuable asset behind the plate and in the clubhouse, he's not much of a threat at the plate. And the organization is committed to its young catchers. If somehow Flores were to be moved over the winter, it's possible the Nats could seek to bring Pudge back. But he desperately wants to record the 156 hits he still needs to get to 3,000, and he's going to go wherever he thinks he has the best chance of consistent playing time.
IN THE MINORS
What used to be a position of weakness has become an organizational strength in recent seasons. In addition to Ramos and Flores at the big-league level, the Nationals still have top prospect Derek Norris knocking on the doorstep. Norris hit just .210 at Class AA Harrisburg, but he posted a .367 on-base percentage with 20 homers. He should open 2012 at Class AAA Syracuse. Sandy Leon turned heads by gunning down 53 percent of basestealers at Class A Potomac, though his offensive game could still use some work. David Freitas hit 13 homers with a .409 on-base percentage at low-Class A Hagerstown.
OFFSEASON NEED? It doesn't look like the Nationals will need to do much behind the plate this winter. They'll monitor Flores as he plays winter ball in his native Venezuela, just in case. It's possible they could look to sign a veteran to catch alongside Norris at Class AAA Syracuse, though they've still got 26-year-old Jhonatan Solano (who hit .275 for the Chiefs this season).