Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2017 position breakdown: catcher

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 19: Francisco Cervelli
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 19: Francisco Cervelli /

As we continue to break down each of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ position from 2017 here at Rum Bunter next up is catcher.

When starting catcher Francisco Cervelli is healthy, catcher is a position of strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, Cervelli has a past history of injury issues and these issues popped up multiple times in 2017. As a result, catcher was a mess for the Pirates during the 2017 season.

Due to concussion and hamstring issues, Francisco Cervelli started just 81 games in 2017. He owned a 10.5 percent walk rate and a .342 on-base percentage. He also hit for more power in 2017 as his ISO (.121) was his highest since 2014. He was also a strong defensive player once again owning a 3.5 dWAR.

In his 81 games played last season, Cervelli owned a 0.9 fWAR. This put him on pace for an fWAR of 2.1 over the course of a full season, which would have put him in the top-10 in the National League in catcher fWAR.

With Cervelli’s injury issues rookie Elias Diaz started 64 games and accumulated 200 plate appearances last season. Diaz went on to have a miserable 2017 season. He owned a .265 on-base percentage, .090 ISO, he slugged just .314, he posted a .253 wOBA, and he owned a wRC+ of 52. He also struggled with framing and blocking the plate, and finished with a -0.3 fWAR.

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You can get a more in-depth breakdown of Diaz’s rookie campaign here.

Veteran Chris Stewart also appeared in 51 games for the Pirates in 2017. Stewart owned a .241 on-base percentage, an ISO of .038, he slugged a miserable .221, his wOBA was .207, he posted a 22 wRC+, and his fWAR was -0.6.

However, Stewart has a club option for 2018 that almost assuredly will not be picked up. In fact, Stewart nearly retired following the 2016 season so there is a good chance that he has played his final career game.

Minor league catcher Jacob Stallings also had 16 plate appearances for the Pirates in 2017. He went 5-for-14 with two doubles and two walks. However, despite being a good defender behind the plate, Stallings projects as a minor league filler type player.

In 2017 the Pittsburgh Pirates’ finished the season with a combined fWAR of 0.2 among their catchers. This was a lowly 13th in the National League. Offensively, the Pirates were horrendous at catcher in 2017. They ranked 12th in the National League in wRC+ (66), 13th in on-base percentage (.300) and wOBA (.275), and 14th in ISO (.094) and slugging percentage (.323).

Chris Stewart, Elias Diaz, and Jacob Stallings, all of whom are not Major League quality hitters, starting more than 50 percent of the Pirates’ game at catcher last season is a big reason why their offesnive production from the position was so poor. It would behoove Neal Huntington and the Pirates to look to add a catcher this offseason.

Next: The perplexing case of Dovydas Neverauskas

If Francisco Cervelli is healthy, then the Pittsburgh Pirates are in great shape at catcher. However, health is far from ever being a given with Cervelli. Adding to the Pirates’ issues at catcher is that Cervelli’s backup – Elias Diaz – is not very good.

When you combine these two factors, Neal Huntington and the Pirates should look to add a catcher this offseason. But that is something you can read more about here.

Other 2017 position breakdowns: