Morning Report: Two Catchers Off to Opposite Starts at the Plate

While doing the Prospect Watch last night, I noticed two catchers having totally different seasons. That’s not a big deal at this early point in the season, but it’s the fact that last year, they were both in opposite places. Jin-De Jhang is hitting .458 this season, after collecting two doubles on Monday. Elias Diaz is batting .185 for Indianapolis and all five of his hits are singles.

The crazy thing about their opposite results is the amount of times the two of them are putting the ball in play. Jhang hasn’t struck out in 24 at-bats this year, while Diaz has struck out once in 27 at-bats. Both of them have better than average strikeout rates during their career, but they obviously can’t keep up their current pace and the same can be said for their BABIP.

When you look at where these two players were in August last year, you see two different seasons taking place. Jhang got an aggressive promotion last year, skipping over Low-A ball and going right to Bradenton. He hit .277/.338/.413 with Jamestown in 2013, so he had a solid season, but he was still just 20 years old at the beginning of the 2014 season. That put him among the youngest players in the league. Last year he batted .219/.263/.301 in 77 games. He was skipped over Low-A because Reese McGuire was supposed to get the bulk of the playing time behind the plate. Now the two are splitting the catching duties this year for the Marauders and with the way Jhang is hitting, you’re running into the same problem they tried to avoid last year.

Diaz did really well at Altoona last year(.328/.378/.445 in 91 games), but struggled during his brief time with Indianapolis at the end of the season, hitting .152/.243/.182 in ten games. Even if you combined his two stints in AAA, it’s still a small sample size. He once got an aggressive promotion during his career, but that was back in 2010 and since then he has moved slowly through the system, especially for someone that has played both winter and fall ball. I don’t think anyone should expect him to hit at the higher levels like he did in Altoona, but he is a better hitter than what we have seen early in the season.

It’s still too early in the season to change your thoughts on either of these players. There is a good chance that Diaz will be catching for the Pirates sometime this year, and as we have said in the past, his defense is so good that the bat just needs to be average for him to add a lot of value. Anything above that at the plate and he is a future All-Star. Jhang was once a top prospect, making it into our top 20 at a point last year, only to see that slip away when he struggled on both sides of the ball. You might be able to blame that on his aggressive promotion, which will look more likely if he continues to play well and look like the prospect that Pirates spent $250,000 to sign in 2011.

Pirates Game Graph


Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 5-2 on Monday night to the Cubs, dropping them below the .500 mark. The two teams will play three more games this series. Francisco Liriano makes his third start of the season tonight. In 13 innings this season, he has allowed just six hits and recorded 14 strikeouts.

In the minors, West Virginia had their game postponed by rain last night, while Altoona had their game suspended in the 5th inning with the Curve holding a 2-1 lead. The Power will play a doubleheader today, while the Curve will finish off Monday’s game, before playing a seven inning game. John Sever will try for a third straight day to make his second start of the season. Adrian Sampson makes his third start, trying to get on track this season. Jason Creasy hasn’t allowed an earned run in two starts this year, both five inning outings. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (6-7) vs Cubs (7-5) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Francisco Liriano (2.08 ERA, 4:14 BB/SO, 13.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (5-6) @ Columbus (5-6) 6:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Sampson (4.35 ERA, 5:11 BB/SO, 10.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (6-4) vs Harrisburg (5-6) 5:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (0.00 ERA, 4:5 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (5-7) vs Charlotte (8-4) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Frank Duncan (0.90 ERA, 3:9 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (6-3) @ Kannapolis (4-6) 5:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: John Sever (0.00 ERA, 1:8 BB/SO, 6.0 IP) and Alex McRae (1.80 ERA, 1:8 BB/SO, 10.0 IP)

Highlights

From Sunday, an RBI single off the bat of Edward Salcedo, who was acquired in the off-season from the Atlantan Braves in exchange for pitcher Bryton Trepagnier. Salcedo has a .294 average through his first eight games, with a double, two walks and a .721 OPS.

From Friday night, Elias Diaz with a walk-off single to end it in extra innings. As mentioned above, this is a rare highlight at the plate so far this season for Diaz, but his defense is getting rave reviews.

Recent Transactions

4/20: Justin Sellers assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

4/19: Wilkin Castillo assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/19: Pat Ludwig retires.

4/18: Jaff Decker activated from disabled list and optioned to Indianapolis. Adam Miller assigned to WV Black Bears.

4/18: Junior Sosa sent to Bradenton. Barrett Barnes assigned to Extended Spring Training.

4/17: Brad Lincoln assigned to Indianapolis. Andy Vasquez assigned to Altoona.

4/17: Chris Stewart activated from disabled list. Tony Sanchez optioned to Indianapolis.

4/16: Jordan Luplow added to West Virginia Power. Jose Regalado transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/16: Kelson Brown transferred to West Virginia Black Bears.

4/14: Jose Regalado added to West Virginia Power. Erik Forgione assigned to West Virginia Black Bears

4/14: Collin Balester assigned to Altoona.

4/13: Pirates release Jonathan Sandfort.

4/13: Francisco Liriano reinstated from paternity list. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

4/12: Chris Stewart assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/12: Justin Topa placed on Bradenton disabled list. Matt Benedict assigned to Bradenton from Altoona

4/11: Pedro Florimon clears waivers. Assigned to Indianapolis.

4/11: Stolmy Pimentel claimed off waiver by the Texas Rangers.

4/9: Chris Stewart assigned to Altoona on rehab. Jaff Decker assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/7: Pirates release Matt Nevarez, Andrew Dennis and Dwight Childs.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, with three of them playing during this century. Kip Wells, Ronnie Paulino and Jack Taschner all put in time during the down years between playoff appearances. The one player that didn’t play during this current era is shortstop Stan Rojek, who was a member of the Pirates from 1948 until 1951. Rojek didn’t have a career that stands out in the Majors, but he did serve during WWII, missing three years of his playing career in the process.

Speaking of Rojek, the first year he served in the military was 1943 and that year was the only time the Pirates opened up a season on April 21st. Like every other team in baseball, the Pirates has players leave to serve in the military. The club was still strong enough that season to finish with an 80-74 record. On Opening Day, Pittsburgh won 6-0 in Chicago with Rip Sewell on the mound. He pitched a complete game and Vince DiMaggio drove in two runs. You can see the boxscore here.

  • Nuff said, thanks john.

  • John: Those numbers of Jhang and Diaz with only one strikeout in a combined 51 AB’s is great news for those of us who want to see hitters actually making contact and putting the ball in play.

    Just a quick glance at the Pirates batting order is reason to understand why their record is not any better even though the Rotation has been excellent. The W/K rates are Harrison 2/8, Polanco 2/17, Walker 2/10, Marte 1/17, Alvarez 3/13, and Cervelli 1/10. Those combined numbers are 11W/75K – almost just one measly walk for every 7 K’s. And, when you do not put the ball in play, there is no possibility of getting a hit of any kind. BTW, ‘Cutch and Mercer combined have almost as many walks as strikeouts.

    Somebody better take a strong look at our hitting instructor.

    • Or maybe look at the calendar and relax.

      • batting approach really has nothing to do with what date it is on the calendar

        • So either you think the team that was excellent with approach last year forgot everything about what they did, or you think its possible for a team to somehow someway be great and patient one year and suck the next….and not find SSS bias at all. Batting approach isnt black and white, and is often determined by many factors. The first 3-5 games, they saw pitchers who did pound the zone. So rather than being patient and hitting down in the count, it seems they tried to attack a strike and failed and got down. Proving you dont want to get behind in the count to ML pitchers.

          • Luke you seem to have a very in depth response to a very simple statement I made, full of assumptions regarding what you think I meant. Thanks for your input, I stand by my statement. If you would like me to expand on something I say in the future, just ask and I can gladly offer some specific context.

          • ….and none of that has anything to do with the date on the calendar, as I said

    • Same hitting instructor who helped a team finish as one of the best hitting teams in the NL last year….so maybe 160 games gives him some slack for the first 10-15 this year.

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