Jamie Gatlin| June 25th, 2019
Throughout the 2019 season injuries have hindered the Pittsburgh Pirates. While the injured list has increased young players such as Elias Diaz have shined. The Bucs catcher entered the season, as Francisco Cervelli’s backup, however, Cervelli has been limited to thirty-five games due to concussion issues. When the veteran backstop has been healthy, he has struggled mightily with a .193 average. In his absence, Diaz has been given more playing time than expected and thrived.
Entering this season, Diaz was coming off his heaviest workload after appearing in a career-high eighty-four games. The Venezuelan native embraced the challenge and excelled defensively. He showed that he could be a force offensively and set career highs in every category. He has carried that success into 2019 when the Pirates have needed it the most.
Diaz began the year on the injured list due to a stomach virus. The Pirates activated him on April 21st and his first twelve games back he hit .135. His struggles were partly due to the fact that he was pressing at the plate. His lack of offense, however, is a distant memory as lately he has been one of the Pirates best hitters.
Through forty-six games the twenty-eight year old is hitting .275 with nineteen runs batted in. Although Diaz only has one home run, he already has nine doubles. That places Dias only three away from his career high that he set last season. His production has been a big boost for the Pirates as earlier in the season they got very little production from behind the plate.
While he has excelled offensively, his defense has been just as good. Diaz only has three passed balls all season and has caught seven of twenty-two base stealers. The Venezuelan has already committed four errors but has a fielding percentage of .989. It currently is his highest fielding percentage since 2017 when he had a career-high .990. Although there is still a lot of baseballs to be played, Diaz is showing that he can affect the game in multiple ways.
With the return of Cervelli on the horizon, Diaz may see a little dip in playing time. The Pirates veteran backstop could be a trade candidate with free agency on the horizon. The Pirates will want to maximize their return rather than lose Cervelli with no compensation. Diaz has shown he can handle starting duties and Jacob Stallings has been a decent backup. Although Cervelli has been a good fit in Pittsburgh Diaz is the cheaper and better option.
The key for Diaz will be to keep up his solid play. He generally does not hit high in the lineup making the Pirates bottom half hard to face. As the Pirates look to rising in the standings, they will need Diaz at his best. He is already on pace to set career highs in doubles and runs batted in. This season he has been handed the perfect opportunity and proved that he can be the future behind the plate.
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