Pittsburgh Pirates: Previewing the Backup Catcher Battle

Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates v Washington Nationals / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages
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Kevin Plawecki

One of the Pirates’ most recent minor league signees was a backstop, that being veteran Kevin Plawecki. Plawecki spent the 2022 season mostly with the Boston Red Sox, but he also played a few games with the Texas Rangers. Overall, it wasn’t a season to remember as he posted negative WAR, both in terms of FanGraphs’ and Baseball Reference’s measurements.

Plawecki batted just .220/.286/.286. His isolated slugging percentage clocked in well below .100 at just .065 The only positive of his season was his plate discipline. Plawecki had a 7.5% walk rate and a 17.2% strikeout rate. When everything was said and done, Plawecki ended the year with a .259 wOBA and 61 wRC+, only slightly better than Delay and Heineman.

But Plawecki did have some respectable numbers as a batter in 2017-2021. In those five seasons, the backstop slashed .250/.332/.382 with a .312 wOBA and 95 wRC+. He had an above-average 8.5% walk rate and 18.4% strikeout rate, along with a much better .132 isolated slugging percentage. These numbers aren’t going to rival Mike Piazza, but many catchers struggle even to post a 90 wRC+, and Plawecki was at 95.

After looking like a potential future Gold Glover back in 2015, Plawecki has never even come close to matching his +17/+9.5 FRM DRS ‘15 campaign. Last year, he had -10 defensive runs saved with +.2 framing runs. He also only caught 10% of would-be base stealers and was in the bottom 1% of pop time.

Plawecki has the most major league experience among the Pirates’ backup catching options, and while he has been a solid hitter in the past, for a catcher, at least, he’s the worst defensive option of the group. Considering the amount of offensive value he brought last year wasn’t much greater than either Heineman or Delay, I can’t see him having a significant leg-up (if any advantage) over either option.