The best hitter in baseball right now is… Sandy Leon

Rich Gagnon/Getty Images
21 Comments

Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon went 1-for-3 with a solo home run in Thursday afternoon’s 4-3 loss to the Tigers. Leon has only taken 153 plate appearances this season, so he doesn’t show up on leaderboards that require hitters to have taken enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. But the backstop is hitting .382/.437/.654 with seven home runs and 24 RBI this season.

Leon, 27, was signed by the Nationals as an amateur free agent in January 2007. He put up a .533 OPS in 107 PA as a National before the Red Sox purchased him in March last year. In 128 PA with the Red Sox in 2015, he had a .439 OPS and his numbers at Triple-A weren’t particularly impressive, either.

Which makes his breakout this season all the more surprising. Among the 44 catchers who have come to the plate at least 150 times, Leon is by far the best hitting catcher. wRC+, an all-encompassing Sabermetric offensive statistic found at FanGraphs, puts him at 188 (100 is average). The Nationals’ Wilson Ramos, in second place, is found at 140. Leon is also the best hitter at any position by wRC+. Mike Trout and Jose Altuve are tied in second place at 167 and David Ortiz is at 164.

It’s highly unlikely Leon keeps this pace up over a full season’s worth of plate appearances, but he truly may have developed into an above-average hitter. He’s making lots of hard contact, resulting in plenty of line drives and fly balls deep enough to land beyond outfield fences. If this is the case, one big question comes to mind: what happens to Blake Swihart?