Francisco Cervelli is Looking to Prove He is a Starter


Of all the positions on the Pittsburgh Pirates heading into the 2015 season, catcher may be the biggest question mark. After two years of having Russell Martin behind the dish, solidifying the position both offensively and defensively, the Pirates will now be turning to Francisco Cervelli as their expected starting catcher this season.

Cervelli is certainly a question mark. For much of his career, he has served as a backup catcher for the New York Yankees, getting more than 300 plate appearances only once. In that 2010 season, Cervelli put together a .271/.359/.335 batting line, hitting all of fourteen extra base hits, none of which were a home run. Cervelli did, however, draw 33 walks and only struck out 42 times in his 317 plate appearances.

That season is essentially a snapshot as to what Francisco Cervelli is. He has hit a total of ten home runs in his major league career, so he is obviously not going to be much of a power threat. However, if there is one thing that Cervelli is good at, it is getting on base, as his career .348 on base percentage shows.

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Despite Cervelli’s ability to get on base, there are certainly questions as to whether or not he can be a starting catcher in the major leagues. His overall .278/.348/.381 batting line is not terrible, but his overall 97 OPS+ has been greatly enhanced over the past two seasons. Prior to 2013, Cervelli had a .271/.339/.353 batting line, which was worth an 84 OPS+.

Then there are questions about Francisco Cervelli’s durability, or lack thereof. He has dealt with a broken hand, concussion issues and a hamstring injury, not to mention a 50 game suspension as part of the Biogenesis scandal. Is this really someone that can be a starting catcher, playing in over 100 games during the course of a season?

Or, is Cervelli better suited to that backup role he has occupied for so long? He is certainly a solid defensive catcher, and his pitch framing ability is part of what made him attractive to the Pirates. Yet, is that defensive capability really as much of a positive as the Pirates think? In his limited playing time, he is considered to have cost the Yankees seven runs defensively.

Francisco Cervelli has waited four years to have another chance to be a starting catcher at the major league level. Now, the soon to be 29 year old will need to prove that he is more than a solid backup. 2015 may be the last chance he gets to do so.

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