By Jason Shetler
The Pirates faced a difficult challenge last offseason, as they needed to replace Russell Martin, who had signed on with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Bucs brought in Francisco Cervelli from the New York Yankees in exchange for reliever Justin Wilson. 2015 marked Cervelli’s first season as a regular catcher. Let’s look at the numbers for Cervelli the past two seasons, and how he projects to do in 2016.
2014 (Yankees): .301/.370/.432/, 127 OPS+, 6.8% BB rate, 25.3% K rate, 25% CS rate, 1.3 WAR in 49 games
2015 (Pirates): .295/.370/.401/, 114 OPS+, 9.0% BB rate, 18.4% K rate, 22% CS rate, 3.8 WAR in 130 games
2016 (FanGraphs): .288/.366/.386, 9.1% BB rate, 17.8% K rate, 3.8 WAR in 120 games
Based on Cervelli’s 2014 offensive figures, he certainly had the potential, but just needed an opportunity, and certainly took advantage of that last year. Cervelli put up a .370 on base percentage, which was second best among National League catchers behind only Buster Posey. He was able to increase his walk rate while the strikeout rate was cut down by 7%. Defensively, Cervelli was below league average throwing out runners last season, but was a terrific pitch framer. Overall, he was almost a four-win player. FanGraphs projects another solid year for Cervelli in 2016.
My analysis: Cervelli does a terrific job of controlling the strikezone, as his walk rate is very good while the strikeout rate is on the low side, leading to an impressive ability to get on base. While his caught stealing rate was below league average, he was the second best pitch framing catcher in baseball last year. Only Yasmani Grandal of the Los Angeles Dodgers was rated higher. Cervelli should have another productive season in 2016.