By Jared Lankes
There has been ongoing debate over the last few weeks as to who the Pirates should trot out every night at catcher. The last few weeks, there has been stirring that it should be Diaz given what he’s done the last week or so and his reputation of great defensive work in the minors. However, now that Cervelli has returned from the concussion DL, people have started a seemingly endless argument to this topic. Today, I will aim to squash all questions about who the starting catcher should be because the answer is rather obvious.
First, let’s look at numbers for this season. Offensively, Cervelli has actually been quite solid, owning a .346 OBP, a .325 wOBA, and a 101 wRC+ in 182 plate appearances on the year. Even though he’s not been outstanding at throwing out base stealers (throwing out about 20% of base stealers), his defense behind the dish overall is still rock solid.
Now, as for Diaz, he has been hot at the plate, but it’s been an extremely small sample size. In 48 plate appearances, he owns a .396 OBP, a .381 wOBA, and a 139 wRC+, but his .382 BABIP suggests he is due for regression, and his small sample size doesn’t help matters as he has never shown to be a particularly good hitter throughout the minor leagues. As for defense, Diaz certainly excels, and we don’t need numbers to back it up, and the sample size of his defense in the MLB is so small that it’s hard to discern, but he has an elite arm and is great at throwing out baserunners.
The next thing to go over is circumstance. Cervelli is, by many accounts of knowledgeable baseball fans, in the top half of catchers in the league and is heralded for above average offensive output overall as well as great pitch-framing skills, game-calling skills, and is good enough at throwing out baserunners to make him a very good all-around player. As for Diaz, there is a chance he could be these things, but he is a 26-year old rookie that has never shined enough in the minors that he would be considered a starting catcher unless someone got hurt, and the way the Pirates have used him makes that clear.
So the answer is very clear as to who the Pirates starting catcher should be, and the answer is Cervelli. Love him or hate him, it’s hard to see why he shouldn’t be the catcher of the Pirates. He is a bonafide catcher in this league that has caught a lot of games at a high level. Don’t get me wrong, Diaz playing well while filling in for Cervelli was a major boost, but let’s not pretend that one good week in the MLB means that player should become the starter over one of the better catchers in the league.