Today we continue with our Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 report cards, by looking at catcher Elias Diaz.
The Pirates lineup had a lot of underperforming pieces in 2018, but the guys behind the plate were not a part of that problem.
Diaz surprised with the bat this season and was fairly solid behind the plate as a defensive catcher.
So how good was Diaz in 2018?
The bat was a surprise as Diaz always had the potential to be a productive hitter, but it never really showed.
He never graded out as much of a hitter and didn’t produce with the bat in Triple-A, posting .271/.330/.382 and .266/.298/.339 lines in 2015 and 2016.
His first real extended playing time in the majors came last season as he posted a meager .223/.265/.314 line in 200 plate appearances.
So his .286/.339/.452 line from this season basically came out of nowhere. Adding 10 homers and 34 RBI from the backup catcher spot was a nice surprise.
Diaz posted a 116 OPS+ and was a 1.6 WAR player in 2018, leading many to believe he should be the full time catcher heading into 2019.
Other than the month of May, where Diaz hit just .139, he was fairly consistent the rest of the season, never hitting below .273 in any given month.
Cervelli caught the staff a little bit better, but not by much.
Pirates’ pitchers had a 3.97 ERA throwing to Cervelli and a 4.10 ERA to Diaz.
But while Cervelli was on the DL, which happened a few times in 2018, Diaz showed he can handle things a full time catcher, once making 15 consecutive starts in a span from June 21 through July 7.
Diaz did have some issues throwing the ball this season as he made nine throwing errors so he has to get that under control before he can seriously be considered as the number one catcher.
He was right at the league average of 28 percent when it came to throwing runners out trying to steal, gunning down 11 of 40 would be base stealers.
Diaz for the past few seasons was a hitter that was prone to beating the ball into the ground, posting a 49.1 percent groundball rate in 2015, 51.1 in 2016 and 52.3 in 2017.
In this launch angle age, he cut that number down to 44.7 this season, which helped him produce the solid overall numbers across the board.
Diaz squared up pitches better as well as his soft contact rate was a career best 19.5 percent and his hard contact rate was up to 36.9 percent.
One year is a small sample size, but if Diaz can keep trending that way, he could be an everyday catcher for a while.
Let’s not make Diaz out to be a prospect or anything. He’s going to be 28 next season and truthfully he really has had only one productive season as a pro.
Luckily for the Pirates it was this season.
The bat was productive and he wasn’t terrible behind the plate, although I won’t go as far to say we was good defensively back there.
But add it all up and it was a nice 2018 campaign for Diaz.
You aren’t going to find many more backup catchers that were more productive.