Severino impressing Nationals with his work ethic
Young catcher learned English so he could better communicate with pitching staff
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Nationals are really high on catcher Pedro Severino. His skills behind the plate are off the charts. For example, while playing for Class A Hagerstown last year, he threw out 40 percent of would-be basestealers.
But that number doesn't tell the whole story about Severino. At 20 years old, he can call a game and is considered a leader when dealing with a pitching staff. Outside of the skill set behind the plate, Severino has a dynamic personality. He exudes confidence and is not shy about having a conversation about baseball.
A native of the Dominican Republic, Severino quickly learned the English language. He is the first to tell you that, by speaking English, he will have a great relationship with the pitching staff.
"I'm ready for everything, ready for every pitch. I concentrate on the whole game," Severino said. "I try to stay on the same page with the pitcher with communication."
Severino is also not afraid to pick the brains of members of the Nationals organization, such as catcher Jhonatan Solano and third-base coach Bobby Henley, who was the Minor League field coordinator last year. Henley went so far as to call Severino a winning player.
"[Severino] learned the English language within about two years. We stressed that with all our Latin players," Henley said. "He really loves the game of baseball. He is passionate about his work ethic. He is passionate to get better in the game. He is an intelligent game caller as far as catching. He is so young. He has good instincts as far as what he sees when he is catching and what pitch to call next. He is a player who wants to win."
Ranked by MLB.com as No. 13 prospect in the Nationals' farm system in 2013, Severino calls Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina his baseball hero. Obviously, defense is the reason he idolizes Molina.
Solano is the one who told Severino that if he learned English, he would be in the big leagues in no time. Solano also noticed that Severino is an energy guy and told him he had to control it.
"If you are a catcher, you are like a leader on the field, he controls the game," Solano said. "The pitcher will feel comfortable when you are behind the plate."
Severino is expected to start the season with Class A Advanced Potomac, and despite his .223 career batting average in professional baseball, the Nationals believe he will get better. Some people in the organization believe Severino will display some power.
"His defensive skills are ahead of his offensive skills at this moment," assistant general manager Doug Harris said. "He is a guy who is not going to have a bat knocked out of his hands. He is gaining more and more knowledge about how to manage his approach and his swing. Probably the biggest part for him is, physically, he is now in a place where he is strong enough [to get better]."
Severino is currently participating in the Nationals' accelerated camp. He points out that he is working on his swing and making sure that he is not pull happy like he was for most of his career.
"I'm working hard on my swing," Severino said. "I try to hit the other way. If I stay inside the ball, I will get a good swing."
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time. He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.