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Nats intend to use backup catcher more in '18

Severino, Montero the frontrunners to spell Wieters
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Backup catcher could be a much more important position for the Nationals this season than in years past. The Nats are searching for more production from their backstops this season and have already introduced a plan in order to do so.

Barring an outside acquisition for a starting catcher, Washington plans to reduce the number of games its current starter, Matt Wieters, plays this year in an effort to keep him fresh and productive. The team has Wieters pinned for roughly 90-100 games, meaning it will need a capable backup on the roster to complement him. That makes the battle for backup catcher one of the club's most interesting position competitions entering camp.

WASHINGTON -- Backup catcher could be a much more important position for the Nationals this season than in years past. The Nats are searching for more production from their backstops this season and have already introduced a plan in order to do so.

Barring an outside acquisition for a starting catcher, Washington plans to reduce the number of games its current starter, Matt Wieters, plays this year in an effort to keep him fresh and productive. The team has Wieters pinned for roughly 90-100 games, meaning it will need a capable backup on the roster to complement him. That makes the battle for backup catcher one of the club's most interesting position competitions entering camp.

Do the Nationals believe Pedro Severino, the club's No. 15 prospect as rated by MLB Pipeline, is ready to step in and fulfill the role, or will they give it to a veteran with a more proven track record like Miguel Montero, who the team signed to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training last week?

There are members within the organization who believe Severino, 24, is ready to crack the big leagues full time after spending parts of three seasons bouncing between the Minors and Majors. Defensively, he shines with excellent skills behind the plate and a strong arm that controls the running game. The question remains about his ability at the plate. Severino owns a career .633 OPS in the Minors. The team believes he was making some strides last season, but a disabled list stint slowed down his progress.

Video: WSH@PHI: Nats turn strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out DP

Severino will be given every opportunity to win his spot on the Opening Day roster during Spring Training, a job that could come down to whether he hits enough.

The Nats added some insurance in Montero when they signed him a week ago to compete for a roster spot. Montero has familiarity with both Nats general manager Mike Rizzo, who was with Arizona when the D-backs signed him in 2001, and manager Dave Martinez, who spent the past three seasons in Chicago with Montero.

Video: TOR@CHC: Montero evens the score with a solo home run

Washington has an idea what it is getting in Montero, a 12-year veteran who has filled this role before and can still hit, especially right-handers (.781 OPS), where Wieters is more successful against left-handers (.790 OPS). It could make for a natural platoon.

Those are the primary in-house options for the Nationals should they choose to stand pat at catcher as they prepare for Spring Training. A year ago, however, they signed Wieters after camp started, so they have shown if they are not happy with their options, they can make a change.

Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Miguel Montero, Pedro Severino