Although Jason Delay did not do much with the bat, he gave the Pittsburgh Pirates some much needed defensive help behind the dish
When then-regular backstop Roberto Perez went down with a significant injury, the Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to have little in the way of a decent backup. They rotated Michael Perez and Andrew Knapp at the position but then found some consistency in a surprising manner. 2017 fourth-round pick Jason Delay whose defense made a massive impact eventually gained semi-regular play behind the plate.
Delay was an under-slot 4th round pick, with his ability to field the position being his main selling point. There aren’t many positive things to say about his hitting ability. Throughout his time in the minor leagues, Delay batted for just a .625 OPS, .291 wOBA, and 77 wRC+. He hit for little power, and didn’t draw many walks either.
Delay was especially poor with the stick at Triple-A this season, posting a .220/.286/.305 line, .270 wOBA, and 58 wRC+ in 93 plate appearances. His performance at the dish in the majors wasn’t much different, having a .213/.265/.271 slash, .243 wOBA, and 53 wRC+ through 167 plate appearances. Delay only walked 4.8% of the time with a 29.9% strikeout rate. Delay’s isolated slugging percentage was in the double-digits at .058. He only had seven extra base hits. It’s not as if there’s more power there either. Delay had just an 84.9 MPH exit velocity and 28.3% hard hit rate.
But on the defensive side of things, Delay could have been a Gold Glover if he played more games. Despite only catching 436.2 innings, the 27-year-old rookie racked up +3 Defensive Runs Saved and +3.5 framing runs. Delay had a slightly above-average reaction time of 1.99 seconds, but he displayed a strong and accurate arm behind the plate.
Furthermore, a catcher’s defense and game calling have become ten times more important than anything they can do with the bat. Austin Hedges just finished the season with the lowest OPS for a catcher since the start of 2000 (min. 300 plate appearances), yet he started 97 games for the Cleveland Guardians and was called upon to start Game 5 of the ALDS. Tomas Nido of the New York Mets started 86 games for the team and was included on their postseason roster. Martin Maldonado started 110 games for the Astros and is their primary catcher this postseason. Delay isn’t any different to these players.
Delay is the quintessential backup catcher. He might not bring much with the bat, but you can surely rely on him to get the job done defensively. He’s currently slated for semi-regular playing time but will likely fall into more of a traditional reserve role once Endy Rodriguez arrives in the major leagues.