Pittsburgh Pirates: Previewing the Backup Catcher Battle

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages
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Jason Delay

When catching was a revolving door last season, Jason Delay was one of the players the Pirates called upon. Delay, a former fourth-round pick in 2017, was signed as a major under-slot deal at the time. A defensive first catcher, Delay was just that for the Pirates last year.

On the offensive side of the ball, Delay put up almost identical numbers to Heineman. In 167 plate appearances, the backstop hit just .213/.265/.271. He had just six doubles but did hit a home run, but also had a poor walk rate of just 5.4%. Overall, he had just a .243 wOBA and 53 wRC+. The only thing that separated Delay from Heineman was strikeout rate. He struck out about 20% more often with a 29.9% strikeout rate.

While Heineman might be the best defensive option, Delay isn’t too far behind. In 436.2 innings, Delay had +2 defensive runs saved and +3.5 framing runs. Impressively, he didn’t allow a single passed ball, but he did have a caught-stealing rate of 20%, much lower than Heineman. He was still a well-above-average defensive catcher, even if he fell short of his partner in crime during the second half of the season. However, one thing to keep in mind is that Delay does have experience catching many of the Pirates' pitching prospects.

I do think Heineman has the edge over Delay here. They have almost identical offensive numbers, but the former has slightly better defense, and he also strikes out much less often. Plus, he has the edge in being a left-handed batter, which, like stated earlier, does give the Pirates options to go with different line-ups and match-ups. Delay does have the advantage of working with some of the Bucs' prospects, which is the one thing that might give him the boost over Heineman.