Pittsburgh Pirates 2017 ZiPS Projection: Catcher


Yesterday, ZiPS released their player projections for the 2017 season. In the coming days here at Rum Bunter we will be breaking down the projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Next up: catcher.

Arguably the best projections to use for how a Major League Baseball player will perform in an upcoming season is ZiPS projections. Well, yesterday, ZiPS released their 2017 projections. So in the coming days here at Rum Bunter we will be looking at the 2017 ZiPS projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yesterday, Dave broke down the ZiPS projections for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting pitchers. Today I will take a look at another position group. This position group is catcher.

From 2013-2015 catcher was a position of strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, in 2016 the catcher position had a very up and down season for the Bucs. But this was mostly due to injuries to both Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.

Francisco Cervelli

Last season, Francisco Cervelli played in just 101 games due to a broken hamate bone. This hamate bone had a negative impact on his offense causing his wRC+ to drop to 99 (119 in 2015), his wOBA to .318 (.341 in 2015), and his slugging percentage to .322 (.401 in 2015).

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Despite the offensive drop off, Cervelli was once again on of the game’s top defensive backstops. He posted a 4.4 dWAR in 2016, while ranking third among all Major League catchers in pitch framing. He also finished with a defensive runs saved of +1 in 2016.

ZiPS is projecting Francisco Cervelli to be better in 2017. Cervelli is projected to slash .269/.362/.355/.717 with a 11.2 percent walk rate, a .322 wOBA, and an OPS+ of 97.

These numbers project Francisco Cervelli to be a slightly above league average hitter, with an above average ability to get on base. Due to Cervelli being one of the best defensive catchers in the game, this is all the Pirates need from him offensively for him to bring value to the table.

He is projected to post a 3.8 WAR, which would have been third best among Major League catchers in 2016 behind just Buster Posey and Jonathan Lucroy.

Chris Stewart

Just as Francisco Cervelli did, Chris Stewart battled injuries in 2016. This included a disabled list for the Pirates’ backup backstop. Stewart was limited to just 34 games due to a knee injury. Also like Cervelli, Stewart’s offensive numbers declined in 2016 while he remained a plus defender.

ZiPS is projecting a bounce back season for Chris Stewart in 2017. He is projected to slash .245/.315/.298/.613. Minus on-base percentage, all of those numbers are an improvement over 2016. Stewart is also projected to post a .270 wOBA, 7.6 percent walk rate, and an OPS+ of 69 (nice).

Chris Stewart’s true value comes in his defense. This is evident in his 2.2 dWAR each of the past two seasons, as well as being a top-10 pitch framer in Major League Baseball the past two seasons.

Chris Stewart is one of the favorite punching boys of Pirates’ Twitter. However, the fact is that he is a very good backup catcher. He is projected to post a 0.3 WAR.

Next: A Deeper Look At Nefi Ogando


Elias Diaz, Jacob Stallings, and Jin-De Jhang could all be depth options at catcher for the Pirates this season if they run into injuries. Both Diaz and Stallings saw time in the Major League last season. And Diaz is one of the Pirates’ top-10 prospects.

ZiPS projections are most friendly to Elias Diaz out of this group, and that is not a surprise. He is projected to slash .246/.293/.357/.650 with a 6.2 percent walk rate, .285 wOBA, and an OPS+ of 76. Stallings projects to have a .250 wOBA and an OPS+ of 60. Meanwhile, Jhang projects to have a .276 wOBA and an OPS+ of 72.

However, barring catastrophe, I do not expect to see Stallings or Jhang in the Major Leagues this season. Then again, catastrophe struck at catcher last year so one never knows.

Other ZiPS Projections