Many, including myself have pretty much written off Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli of having much of a future behind the dish for the rest of his career.
The concussions keep piling up and while by this point we should be used to Cervelli flopping around like he’s been shot through the heart every time he takes a foul ball off any part of his body; if the injuries keep piling up he’s not going to have much of a career at any position if he doesn’t find a way to stay healthy.
The Pirates saw this and Cervelli makes occasional spot starts at first base to keep his bat in the lineup.
That bat hasn’t been terrible as Cervelli has hit .263/.392/.449 in 2018. The OBP and slugging marks are the best of his career and he’s also hit 11 dingers and driven in 49 runs while posting a 2.9 WAR, which is the second highest of his career.
That’s all fine and dandy, but those numbers don’t really play as an everyday corner infield guy.
But considering Cervelli more and more, he may not be done as a catcher just yet.
The bat isn’t the only area in which Cervelli has shown vast improvements.
Entering play on Friday, Cervelli has been very good at throwing base stealers. In fact he’s been better than he’s even been in his career.
Cervelli is gunning down runners at a 40 percent clip, which is way better than the league average of 28 percent.
On the season he’s thrown out 20 of 50 potential base stealers, which considering his high with the Pirates was 22 percent in 2015, was an unexpected area of improvement for Cervelli this season.
By comparison, Elias Diaz has thrown out 31 percent of the runners who’ve tried to steal.
Considering how much of an easy time the opposition has had running on the Pirates the past few years, having both catchers above league average in that department is a nice sign.
Give the pitching staff credit as well as they’ve been better at getting the ball to the plate much quicker, but the improvement the Pirates catchers have made in throwing out runners this season has been tremendous.
Make no mistake about it, Diaz should be the starter heading into next season, but keeping Cervelli around as a backup catcher and backup corner infielder probably isn’t a bad idea.
Likely the Pirates won’t have a choice as there won’t be much of a market for an injury prone catcher making $13.5 million in 2019.
The duo leads the all major league catching duos with a 121wRC+ and while that might not sustainable next season, the Pirates should be very comfortable with Cervelli and Diaz behind the dish next season.
Cervelli is having the best season of his career both offensively and defensively.
Don’t be so quick to write him off as a catcher so soon.
If he can just stay healthy, and that’s a huge if, he may have a good bit of miles left behind the plate.